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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Mathis, Ayana

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
The newest Oprah's Book Club 2.0 selection. The arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother's monumental courage and the journey of a nation. Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis's The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last--glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780385350280
Characteristics: 243 p. ; 25 cm.


Featured Blogs and Events

Having Children Can Be A Challenge

In honor of Mother's Day, let's take a look at two different mothers in the world of fiction. In The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, follow the Shepherd family through multiple decades of the African-American Great Migration. Starting with the death of her newborn twins, each of Hattie's children has a chapter in this novel and they all have a lot to say- about being human, about … (more)

From the critics

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Mar 24, 2015
  • Chapel_Hill_KenMc rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Sweeping historical saga that tracks the challenges and triumphs of a dispersed family descended from slaves.

Nov 04, 2014
  • Karaelena rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Beautiful and tragic story. I loved her writing style. Each chapter told from a different view of each child. Will defintely look out for other titles from Ayana.

Feb 24, 2014
  • librarylizzard rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

I started this on the recommendation of a colleague, but didn't get past the first 3 "stories". First, Hattie's twins die of pneumonia. Then, far in the future, her jazz-playing son questions his sexuality. By the time her badly burned and disfigured son wrestles with his faith and chosen path as a preacher I was longing for a different story. I don't often give up on books halfway, but I couldn't wait to swap this for something else. It just wasn't my kind of book. Sorry, Ayana Mathis!

Dec 16, 2013
  • HilarySquires rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Thank goodness for the hopeful ending!

Nov 07, 2013
  • amandamarie2234 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I agree with most of the comments so far. Mathis chose an interesting format for the narrative, and I love the idea of telling a family's story through chapters in each member's voice; however, I too kept waiting for ONE glimmer of hope-- to no avail. It's hard to read (and believe) failure after failure, tragedy after tragedy... one needs a little joy here and there! Mathis' frame allowed her to span decades and portray her characters in various historical times and places, but the novelty of the structure wore off when I realized that all of my rooting for the title character and her family wouldn't make their lives any brighter. I closed the book and, before I said anything about its quality, said, "That was incredibly depressing."

Oct 25, 2013
  • DanglingConversations rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

This is a slog to read and does not resonate with any experience in my life. Parents of 12 children are inadequate. I was depressed reading this story and found it has no redeeming insights

Aug 25, 2013
  • KSerá rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Yes, the writing is very good, which redeems the fact that this book is so unrelievedly dismal. I like stories about people facing challenges, but when none of the forteen characters in this book manage to overcome their problems and build a happy and satisfying life it is just too depressing and in my opinion not realistic.

Jul 27, 2013
  • azor rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Beautifully written. Very engaging story. I look forward to more by this author.

Jun 18, 2013
  • amgriffin rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Super depressing. But could be good on a gloomy day. Lacked closure and a polished ending.

Jun 13, 2013
  • basilbrush rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This was very well written. I loved her writing style however it was a pretty depressing story.

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