Bret Lott "knows how ordinary people work and love...and he shows us, as well, the redemptive powers of love" (The New York Times). Now this enormously gifted American writer has written his most remarkable novel yet, a matchless portrayal of a mother's devotion to the child who is both her burden and God's singular way of smiling on her.
It is 1943 in the backwoods of Mississippi. In the land o honeysuckle and wild grapevine, Jewel Hilburn and her husband Leston - whose love for his wife is the surest comfort she's ever know - are truly blessed. They have five fine children who embrace the world as though it were a sumptuous table set for a feast; and when Brenda Kay is born, Jewel gives thanks for yet another healthy baby, last-born and most welcome.
JEWEL is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, life lightning, an unforseen event can illuminate our lives and set us on a course without reason or compass.
All too soon, Jewel knows that something is wrong with Brenda Kay; her every moment, every breath is taken up with caring for her daughter , with setting things straight. Leston's optimism is falling as fast as the Southern economy in the wake of the Second World War. And the physicians Jewel calls "cracker doctors" insist that no one can fix a brain born without the gift of common sense.
Against a stunning tableau reminiscent of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, the uniquely talented Bret Lott traces the intricate changes among the members of the Hilburn family, as Jewel deepens her quarrel with God, taking hold of the hardships that come her way. Jewel sees one hope for them; they must travel to a new life in the Promised Land of California.
In Los Angeles, their new Jerusalem, Jewel and Leston experience a slow but inevitable shifting of the heart. Brenda Kay delights in the huge, and by her own measure, heroic tasks that become triumphs for them all; the older Hilburn children begin the uncertain journey toward their own futures.
We will wait a very long time before another writer matches the intensity and the beauty of this mother daughter relationship. JEWEL stands as an unforgettable masterwork, in which Bret Lott has created on of the finest and most indomitable heroines of contemporary American fiction.