“A remarkable page-turner of a novel.” —Chicago Tribune
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, swept up by the tides of the Great Migration, flees Georgia and heads north. Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children, whom she raises with grit, mettle, and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them to meet a world that will not be kind. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage—and a nation's tumultuous journey.
A New York Times Notable Book
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year
An Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This beautifully written, emotional saga draws us into the world of one family over half a century. Starting in 1923, with a young girl moving from Georgia to Philadelphia after a horrible episode of racial violence, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie gives us an intimate peek into the lives of 12 interconnected characters, who are all anchored by elegant, hard-as-nails matriarch Hattie. Each of Ayana Mathis’ protagonists takes a distinct life path, from jazz musician to teen preacher, but they all struggle with heartbreak and longing, which seem to ripple out across generations. Though it can sometimes be heavy, the novel’s ultimately about finding those sparks of joy in life.
Mathis's remarkable debut traces the life of Hattie Shepherd through the eyes of her offspring, depicting a family whose members are distant, fiercely proud, and desperate for connection with their mother. When 16-year-old Hattie's newborn twins, her first with husband August, die from pneumonia in the winter of 1925, it is a devastation that will disfigure her for the rest of her life. As the novel moves from closeted musician Floyd's fearful attempt to love another man in 1948, to Six's flight to Alabama two years later after beating a boy nearly to death, Alice's rift with her brother Billups in the late 1960s, consumptive Bell's aborted suicide in 1975, and Cassie's descent into schizophrenia in the early 1980s, what ties these lives together is a longing for tenderness from the mother they call the General. Strong, angry Hattie despairs as August, an ineffectual though affectionate father, reveals himself to be a womanizer who is incapable of supporting the family. Hattie finds happiness with Lawrence, a gambler; after having his baby, Hattie leaves August and her other children and goes with Lawrence to Baltimore, but returns to the house on Wayne Street, in Philadelphia, almost immediately. Sick with longing for her dead twins and all that her children will never have, Hattie retreats into coldness. As her children age, they come to terms with their intense need for and resentment of the mother who kept them alive but starved their hearts, while Hattie faces a choice between anger and peace. Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer.
Twelves Tribes of Hattie
Very, very touching. I can't say I understand all of it and got lost at times. But, that being said, it was beautiful.
Beautifully human story.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
I really enjoyed this book!! The depths of the characters, their lives, and the world the writer creates is easy to dream up and every chapter leaves you wanting more. The way this book is written is so interesting and different. Loved it.