Mother of Pearl
According to author Melinda Haynes, Mother of Pearl is a stroy about six people, black and white, whose lives become intertwined in small town in 1950's Mississippi. It's about racism, family secrets, and everyone's search for love.
Oprah urges readers not to be stumped by what some may call a dense few beginning chapters, because, "That, my dear, is called reading," a referencing a Toni Morrison quote.
When Oprah asked Melinda, "What is this book about?" Melinda simply replied, "It's about finding self."
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.
The biggest influence on my life is the writing of William Faulkner. (I keep two paperbacks with me at all times. As I Lay Dying is one of them.) Perhaps it is the way Faulkner's 'common' man takes on a beauty and language all his own. Perhaps it is the complexity of sentence structure, or the contemplative nature of his characters. All I know is that -- without fail -- I cannot read one of Faulkner's novels without being driven to write. (with the possible exception being The Reivers, which doesn't satisfy, for some reason.)
Another write who sends me running to my computer is Annie Proulx. (Her Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Shipping News is the other paperback I carry with me.) In this case it seems to be her marvelous characterizations and bold sentence structure. My grandfather, who was a painter, always advised me to stop before I considered the painting completed. To let the mind of the observer finish it, while viewing it. This is how I feel when I read her work.
I seem to be driven to read certain books according to my state of mind. If I feel fevered, I pick up Andrea Barrett's The Voyage of the Narwhal and after a few minutes of reading, I sense an immersion into something wonderfully cool. If I'm bothered by life's complications, Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon leads me to a place far more intricate. When my belief in human endurance wavers, McCourt's, Angela's Ashes, restores my soul.
Mother of Pearl is a first novel of immense and staggering power. I had never heard of Melinda Haynes in my life, but everyone in America will be hearing about her very soon. Her sentences have the beauty of coined silver forks resting on linen. Her dialogue shimmers. Something absolutely wonderful is going on here and it might be the surprise one feels encountering greatness."
— Pat Conroy, author of Beach Music
"Ambitious in both depth and scope, Mother of Pearl is a dazzling first novel."
— Connie May Fowler, author of Before Women Had Wings
"Richly conceived, with vivid character, Melinda Haynes' Mother of Pearl, though set in a time of immense Southern troubles, has a timeless, abiding quality: of the earth itself and life in its passing, of the arduousness and necessity of human communication. This is an impressive first novel."
— Willie Morris, author of North Toward Home
"With deft humor and deep sympathy for human suffering, Melinda Haynes has created a novel that weaves together mystery and magic and the small bright delights of everyday life."
— Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of Sister of My Heart