Book Review: The Twleve Tribes of Hattie

thetwelvetribesofhattieFive StarsThe novel tells the story of each of Hattie’s 11 children and one grandchild over a period spanning 1925 to 1980 with Hattie and her husband, August, as the only continuing presence in each chapter. Beginning with Hattie as a 17-year-old mother of twins in Philadelphia, two years after her father died in Georgia and shortly after her mother’s death, the story’s early chapters remind the audience of just how late into the century Jim Crow laws were enforced. The latter chapters illustrate how much change is still needed for the remnants of discrimination and inequality to be erased.

In contrast to many of the other reviewers, I enjoyed this book very much. The chapter-by-chapter change in point of view emphasized the differences in the experiences of Hattie’s children more effectively than stringing the chapters together from a single point of view could have. It is a family story as well as the story of a baker’s dozen individuals, each with challenges to overcome and dreams to fulfill or let go of.

Book Review: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

An unforgettable and unpredictable debut novel of guilt, punishment, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive.

Five StarstheexecutionofnoapsingletonThose words are part of the marketing package for the novel. I couldn’t have said it better myself. But I didn’t realize it would be unforgettable until I finished it. And its unpredictability explains why it took me a long time to get past the first chapter. But every time I logged on to Goodreads, I would be reminded it was still there, waiting for me to finish. I am very glad I picked it up again.

This is a mystery about a murder on many levels. Did Noa really murder Sarah? Why didn’t she say anything in her own defense during her trial? Why did Sarah’s mother change her opinion of the death penalty? Did the fact that her father was absent, and therefore unknown to Noa during childhood, play a role in the events? What does the P in her name stand for? Some of these questions remain at the end of the book, but enough are answered for the reader to be satisfied. For the story to stick and poke at memories and childhood secrets.

The most important questions all begin with Why. Why did Noa say nothing in her own defense? Why is she so determined not to satisfy Sarah’s mother’s curiosity about the event? Why does Noa lie? Why did she drop out of Penn? Those questions remain largely unanswered, only hinted at. And that is the strength of the book. Because we don’t get those answers from Noa, we end up asking similar ones about our own lives. Those questions raise thoughts of own own guilt, our own family relationships as well as our relationships with others. Those questions bring up thoughts of what we might have done differently. For those reasons, this book will stay with me for at least as long as the 450-some days it took me to finish reading it.