Set in the Deep South in the late 1950s, Mother of Pearl vividly brings to life the extraordinary inhabitants of the small town of Petal, Mississippi. Central to the novel are the stories of Even Grade, a 28-year-old black man abandoned by his mother at birth; Valuable Korner, a 15-year-old white girl whose family history holds a trunkful of damning secrets; and Joody Two Sun, an enigmatic obeah woman who sees into the hearts and minds of the townsfolk from her riverside camp on the outskirts of town. Cast in a tragicomic passion play, Even, Val, and Joody find their destinies entwined as they search for the love and family that they have always been denied.
Petal, Mississippi, 1956
Even Grade walked past the spot on the bridge where Canaan caught the bottle with his head and saw the blood mark was still there, but just barely. The two-week bake of August sun beginning to mask its humiliation, blending the old man's emission to a color like that of rusted girder. On a day not spent dealing with death, Even would have stopped one more time to wonder over the bigger insult: that Canaan's middle-aged forehead got split by glass and bled out, or that the bottle bearing skin and blood soared over a rail and dropped into the water that he loved. Death or no, Even's suspicion was the same as two weeks back: both. Both were equally bad.
Patting for a shirtfront pocket that wasn't there, he fixed a mark on the sun and gauged the time later than normal by half an hour; summed the earth's indifferent swing as more proof of inconsequential man. On an ordinary day he would have stood still in the spot -- left foot in Hattiesburg, ...
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Heartbreakingly beautiful and inescapably human, ordinary and extraordinary people chart their own courses in life. In the aftermath of one tragic afternoon, they are all forced to look at themselves and face up to the observation that the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
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