by Bret Lott
Washington Square Press (c) 1991
Buy Link 1999 edition: http://www.amazon.com/Jewel-Oprahs-Book-Club-Bret/dp/0671038184
A couple of weeks ago our town had its annual village-wide rummage sales. With the promise of one man’s junk becoming this gal’s treasure, I emptied out my piggy bank and set off for a day of “sale-ing.” My first few stops yielded the usual rummage sale fare: fishing poles, pots with missing handles, mountains of baby clothes. Nothing much of interest. Persevering, I headed on down the road, and at my fifth stop, struck pay dirt. At the bottom of a table piled with paperback books I discovered Bret Lott’s JEWEL, a novel whose title says it all.
The story opens as thirty-nine year old Jewel Hillburn and her husband, Leston, are expecting their sixth child. Living in the backwoods of Mississippi with five healthy children in a house Leston built with his own hands, the Hillburn’s lead a rich, but simple life. As both the pregnancy and the story line progress, the reader is introduced to a cast of colorful characters, as well as given glimpses into Jewel’s past, lending a deeper understanding of who this simple but remarkable woman is, and who she was. I couldn’t help falling in love with this family as it eagerly awaited its newest member. When, after twenty-some grueling hours of labor, baby Brenda Kay is born, little does Jewel know her well ordered life is about to turn upside down. When she is five months old Brenda Kay is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Jewel begins a lifelong journey in which her baby daughter will be her heaviest cross, her greatest blessing.
I cannot stress enough how beautiful this story is. JEWEL is the story of a family’s sacrifices, its joy, and its struggles. But mostly, it is the story of a mother’s all consuming love. Bret Lott’s writing style is poetic, each word and sentence perfectly placed. More than a story, JEWEL is like a symphony of love, one you will want to hear again and again. Told from a country woman’s viewpoint, the story imparts truths that are simple, and at the same time, utterly profound. To say this story touched me deeply would not begin to cover it. This book is a lifetime keeper, a masterpiece created by a master craftsman. I happened on this treasure by accident, but I definitely won’t leave it to a chance rummage sale to discover more works by this amazing author.