The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
As you probably know by now, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by debut novelist Ayana Mathis is an Oprah Book Club 2.0 pick. I did not read this book because of that, though; I had actually picked it prior to her selection. I enjoy books about family dynamics, and Mathis does not disappoint in that department.
The book tells the story of Hattie and her family from 1925 to 1980. It’s narrated in various chapters, acting almost like short stories, by her, her children, and her grandchild, who together make the 12 tribes referred to in the title. Hattie migrated from the south to Philadelphia when she was 15 to avoid the Jim Crow laws. There, she married August when she found she was expecting twins. When the twins were only a couple months old, both children died due to pneumonia.
The loss affected Hattie, and her family, for the rest of her life. Hattie went on to have nine more children after the twins, she was not capable of showing any of them the love or affection they wanted and deserved, even though she felt love for them deep within her.
As the novel moves forward through the decades, Hattie’s children and lone grandchild take a front page seat to the action. Each of her children has a demon, either figuratively or literally, to overcome. Some do, and some don’t, but the overarching theme is the resentment toward and longing for their mother, or General, as they call her. There are several characters I would like to learn more about, and it will be interesting to see if Mathis decides to write additional books based on some of them.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is perfect for anyone who enjoys short stories with a common theme, especially if the preferred theme is the intricacies of family. Oprah choosing this for her book club makes this a must-have title for your patrons.
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