With five healthy children and a war which allowed for Leston's steady work, "a twisted sort of blessing," as Jewel noted, the Hilburns were happy and believed life would continue in a slow-paced Mississippi way. But when Jewel and Leston's sixth is born a "Mongolian Idiot," as the New Orleans doctor declared, their life changes and Jewel leads her family on a journey to California that will bring all manner of hardship and joy.
In post-war Los Angeles, a city brimming with promise, Jewel gratefully adopts new terms that replace the stinging words "Mongolian Idiot" to describe her daughter Brenda Kay's situation. She also learns to replace her own words that sting, substituting colored for "nigger." And, most importantly she learns what one person's will can do and the power of love. With these great tools, she forges a mother-daughter bond that strengthens the whole family, allowing a life as rich in blessings as it is in strife.
Through Jewel's eye's we witness the progress of her family through the generations against a backdrop of America undergoing it's own myriad post-war transformations. A vividly drawn indomitable heroine, Jewel defines the intensity of a mother-child relationship and the depth of family love. "Sweeping and beautifully written," praised The New York Times Book Review, Jewel is a "parable for our age."