Melinda Haynes grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A painter for most of her life, she now writes full time from her home in Grand Bay, Alabama, where she is working on her second novel. She lives with her husband, Ray, and an adopted greyhound, Elaine. Mother of Pearl is her first novel.
This fascinating first novel tells the intertwining stories of Valuable, a young white girl whose mother is the town whore; Even Grade, a black man raised in an orphanage; Joody Two Sun, a mysterious seer; Canaan, a misfit intellectual; and Joleb, a white boy raised by Grace Johnson, a black woman hired as his wet-nurse after the death of her baby. Each is searching for love and identity in Mississippi in 1956, when blacks and whites rarely interacted. When Valuable's mother abandons her and Val becomes pregnant, she turns to Even and the others. They forge a makeshift family based on love and acceptance, not blood or race. Haynes has written a monumental novel of love, grace, and hope amid the trials and terrors of everyday life. The story takes place in the segregated South, but it is timeless, and the characters are unforgettable. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄKaren Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
In prose both rugged and beautiful, Haynes plumbs the secrets of the South in her stunning debut novel. Set in Petal, Miss., across the Leaf River from Hattiesburg, the narrative opens in the summer of 1956, shortly after Even Grade, a 27-year-old black man, has met Joody Two Sun, a seer whos known as a witch, and not long after Valuable Korner, the 14-year-old daughter of the towns one loose woman, gets her Blessing of Blood, as Joody Two Sun calls it. Evenso named from the note his mother left when she abandoned him at a Memphis orphanageis a decent man, kindheartedly building a family of friends; while Valuable, the daughter of a dying Southern line, an orphan of sorts herself, is deeply in need of family. Valuable and Jackson McLain, the boy down the street, fall in love, and Haynes captures that phenomenon delicately and persuasively. In a heartbeat Valuable is pregnant, and as Jackson is forced to move away, Valuable turns to Joody and Even for support as she carries the baby she comes to think of as Pearl. Despite Evens help, Valuable, whose family hides secrets far darker than this pregnancy, seems doomed to pay for the sins of the past. Indeed, Hayness capacious novel is very much about the justice wrought by destiny, but it is also about finding family, people who nurture, forgive and care for each other; in the novels resolution, those most deserving of love are brought together. Haynes is fearless in portraying her characters flaws, their pettiness and racism, their erring thoughts, but shes also merciful, letting them grow and change during the course of the narrative. While perhaps too many of the characters take the stage, each with tragic accounts of their lives, Haynes nevertheless triumphs with a rare and memorable ensemble. This wise, luminous novel demonstrates her great giftsfor language, courageous storytelling and compassion. BOMC and QPB selections. (June)
Shelby Hearon author of Owning Jolene Mother of Pearl is a monumental novel set in the noble-speaking backcountry of Faulkner's Mississippi. In a luminous voice, original and true, Melinda Haynes tells the story, straight as a tree and deep as a pond, of the savage miseries and saving graces of the past and present in the Deep South. This is an unforgettable, heart-bending book. Publishers Weekly (starred review) In prose both rugged and beautiful, Haynes plumbs the secrets of the South in her stunning debut novel...She is fearless in portraying her characters' flaws, their pettiness and racism, their erring thoughts, but she's also merciful, letting them grow and change during the course of the narrative...This wise, luminous novel demonstrates her great gifts for language, courageous storytelling, and compassion. The New York Times Book Review Welcome to Petal, Mississippi, a real place on the map, but in Melinda Haynes' first novel, a fictional one as entangling as kudzu. In language as profuse and vigorous as that Southern vine, Haynes tells the story of Valuable Korner, a fatherless girl named after a real estate sign....A heart-thumper. San Francisco Chronicle Book Review Like William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor before her, Melinda Haynes recognizes that Southern culture has a lush affinity with the elements of classical tragedy...A pleasure to witness. Chicago Tribune Memorable...Less a portrait of the South in the 1950s and more a tale about how necessity forces people to create bonds outside their own blood...Haynes works boldly with this large and eccentric cast...her prose has a rugged, muscular quality that is highly expressive and constantly surprising. Booklist (starred review) Both richly humorous and deeply tragic, this story leaves one wiser, and makes one understand something meaningful and important about life and human nature. Haynes speaks the truth in a story that is astonishingly powerful. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Haynes is the real thing, a true artist, a genuine writer, and, in this book at least, a genius....Her characters live (do they ever) and Mother of Pearl transports us to the wilds of a different world. Chicago Tribune Remarkable. Pat Conroy author of Beach Music A first novel of immense and staggering power. Something absolutely wonderful is going on here and it might be the surprise one feels encountering greatness.