This debut novel is a portrait of a mother as seen through the lives of her children. Each chapter is the story of another child, another sad tale of how difficult life can be, and a glimpse of the remarkable woman who raised them. Hattie Shepherd has kept her children alive through sheer will and determination, but lacking in this fierce and tough love is the tenderness they crave. Hattie is a complex character and the author portrays her honestly and unflinchingly. The book is a very enjoyable read despite the sad state of the family and the struggles they must endure.
“From the revivalist tents of Alabama to Vietnam, to the black middle-class enclave in the heart of the city, to a filthy bar in the ghetto, “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” is an extraordinary, distinctive novel about the guilt, sacrifice, responsibility and heartbreak that are an intrinsic part of ferocious love.”
It is not surprising that this book is a Heather’s Pick on Chapters and also an Oprah Book Club selection. It is the type of book that Oprah does favour, similar to Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, yet Mathis has her own distinctive voice.