From its devastating first chapter to its perfect last sentence, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie never ceases to astonish. Ayana Mathis’ first novel is one of the strongest debuts of 2012, and will be talked about, shared and loved for years to come.
Mathis tells the story of Hattie Shepherd as she and her family navigate, negotiate, and survive the twentieth century. Each chapter moves from child to child, and through them Mathis paints a portrait of a mother who has sacrificed everything, not for her children’s happiness, but for their mere existence. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is an accomplishment in that even while Mathis shows us the depths of selfishness, cruelty, and betrayal, she finds moments to let a ray of light shine through dirty windows. She allows her characters to be real – infuriatingly and often tragically real – but so real that you’ll be frustrated at their failings and joyful at their moments of quiet optimism.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a book that will live with you long after the last page. It is a book that showcases the talent of a powerful new voice in fiction, and it is certainly a book that deserves to be on everyone’s list this holiday.
I loved, loved, loved this book.