“The opening pages of Ayana's debut took my breath away. I can't remember when I read anything that moved me quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.”Oprah Winfrey.
Fifteen years old and blazing with the hope of a better life, Hattie Shepherd fled the horror of the American South on a dawn train bound for Philadelphia. Hattie’s is a tale of strength, of resilience and heartbreak that spans six decades. Her American dream is shattered time and again: a husband who lies and cheats and nine children raised in a cramped little house that was only ever supposed to be temporary. She keeps the children alive with sheer will and not an ounce of the affection they crave. She knows they don’t think her a kind woman — but how could they understand that all the love she had was used up in feeding them and clothing them. How do you prepare your children for a world you know is cruel?
The lives of this unforgettable family form a searing portrait of 20th century America. From the revivalist tents of Alabama to Vietnam, to the black middle-class enclave in the heart of the city, to a filthy bar in the ghetto, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is an extraordinary, distinctive novel about the guilt, sacrifice, responsibility and heartbreak that are an intrinsic part of ferocious love.
“Ms. Mathis has a gift for imbuing her characters’ stories with an epic dimension that recalls Toni Morrison’s writing, and her sense of time and place and family will remind some of Louise Erdrich, but her elastic voice is thoroughly her own — both lyrical and unsparing, meditative and visceral, and capable of giving the reader nearly complete access to her characters’ minds and hearts.” (New York Times)
“The opening pages of Ayana’s debut took my breath away. I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.” (Oprah Winfrey)
“A vibrant and compassionate portrait of a family hardened and scattered by circumstance and yet deeply a family. Its language is elegant in its purity and rigor. The characters are full of life, mingled thing that it is, and dignified by the writer’s judicious tenderness towards them. This first novel is a work of rare maturity.” Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead and Orange Prize-winner of Home
"This rich debut couldn’t be further from the straightforward 20th-century American family sage it appears at first to be… Spanning many decades, it is an intricate portrait not only of complex family ties, but also of one quietly strong woman who heads this complicated tribe of siblings, children and friends. With each chapter narrated by one of Hattie’s children, the power of Brooklyn author Ayana Mathis’ novel is in its ability to create distinctive yet precise characters brimming with recognisable humanity.” (Psychologies Magazine)
"Mathis traces the fates of Hattie’s 12 children and grandchildren over the course of the 20thcentury, simultaneously capturing the voices and daily minutiae of every one of her characters. The understated assurance with which the 39 year-old pulls off this trick – a complex and engrossing work that has huge commercial hit written all over it - is remarkable." (The Sunday Times)
"This fresh, powerful first novel turns the lives of Hattie’s children into an epic of America in the 20th century. Tough, truthful, wonderfully controlled writing." (Kate Saunders, The Times)
"This is a bold debut that sets out to address the huge themes of motherhood and US history through the tale of one dysfunctional family, and succeeds." (Financial Times)
"The opening chapter is a cracker, exquisitely written, full of vividly evoked tension and searing emotion. It is painful – relentlessly so – with a devastating coup de grace." (Scotland on Sunday)
"Ms. Mathis has a gift for imbuing her characters’ stories with an epic dimension that recalls Toni Morrison’s writing, and her sense of time and place and family will remind some of Louise Erdrich, but her elastic voice is thoroughly her own — both lyrical and unsparing, meditative and visceral, and capable of giving the reader nearly complete access to her characters’ minds and hearts." (Michiko Kakutani, Scotsman)
"The sum of the novel’s interweaving misfortunes is not only gently gripping but, remarkably, as light as a feather… For a book whose canvas is so ambitiously wide (a dozen characters, stretched across 60 years), this novel’s most admirable feature is it’s quiet ability to highlight big human drama in small moments." (The Sunday Times)
"Moving from the Twenties to the Eighties, this is an impressive debut: tender, tough and unflinching." (Daily Mail)
"This is an ambitious debut, already praised by Pulitzer and Orange Prize winner Marilynne Robinson and chat show host Oprah Winfrey. It is well-deserved, for this is an epic tale of struggle, oppression, love and loss, told bravely." (Sunday Express)
"I feel strongly that you are one of the next big voices.’ Oprah Winfrey, interviewing Ayana for her ‘Super Soul Sunday." (Book Club 2.0 series)
"an unexpectedly uplifting reminder of the resilience of the human spirit." (Good Housekeeping ‘Ones to Watch’)
"A fine debut novel spanning six decades in the often tragic lives of one black family." (The Sunday Times – Must Reads)
"A strong pulse beats on every page of her book and even when its characters are sunk in misery, they are so sharply drawn and vividly present that it thrills and catches at the heart." (The Lady)
"Already a hit in the US, this covers six decades of Hattie’s life with her cheating husband and nine kids. Five stars." (No.1 in Heat’s ‘Top Five Books’)
"As unremittingly bleak as her characters’ lives are, Mathis has not produced a grim novel: it is as much about our need for joy as it is about our struggles against bitterness. Written with elegance and remarkable poise, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is rather like its heroine – a bit withholding at times, but memorable and with a hint of something formidable glinting under the surface." (Guardian)
"The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a moving story of a broken American dream." (Stylist)
"This is an ambitious debut, already praised by Pulitzer and Orange Prize winner Marilynne Robinson and chat show host Oprah Winfrey. It is well-deserved, for this is an epic tale of struggle, oppression, love and loss, told bravely." (Scottish Daily Mail)
"Mathis beautifully unfolds the heartbreaking scene of a mother watching her babies’ lives ebb away… Chosen for the influential Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, this ambitious debut has attracted a lot of attention." (Irish Independent)
"Builds into a tense, real, multi-layered narrative of incredible emotional power. Much better than boring old Alice Walker." (Giles Coren, Metro)
"As unremittingly bleak as her characters’ lives are, Mathis has not produced a grim novel: it is as much about our need for joy as it is about our struggles against bitterness. Written with elegance and remarkable poise, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is rather like its heroine – a bit withholding at times, but memorable and with a hint of something formidable glinting under the surface." (Guardian Weekly, international edition)
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Collection of Short Stories Around One Family
Wished it was longer
Yes, but I was a little disappointed in the story, each chapter was so different as it concentrated on each of Hattie's offspring. But it was impossible to get into the story as it was only a relatively short window in each of their lives. I suppose you learned about Hattie through her children but I would have actually preferred to learn a bit more about each child!
A couple of the chapters were slightly boring and unfortunately took a few rewinds before they 'caught'. Others I could have listened to for hours if they had been a whole novel.
Despite this, The book was well written, so I would try this author again.
The narrators were brilliant, I could clearly identify who was who, I could picture the characters all the more better
Nope, other than to search audible for another book to top me up before the next credit!
It's nice to have a book, going across decades withAfrican Americans folk as the subject. This helps open your mind on an area less publicised and for this I would recommend it.