Picks and Pans Review: Mother of Pearl
It is no wonder that Valuable Korner, the adolescent heroine of Mother of Pearl, finds herself drawn to Joody Two Sun, an African-American seer and healer who lives down by the creek outside Petal, a small Mississippi town. Growing up in the Deep South in the 1950s, the daughter of the local whore, Valuable—like many of her equally confused and disaffected neighbors, black and white—needs all the help she can get.
Nor is it any wonder that Oprah Winfrey has picked this first novel by Alabama painter Melinda Haynes for her popular book club. Mother of Pearl touches on all the themes—southern race relations, coming of age, nostalgia, the confluence of social and personal problems—that the talk show host delights in. Other readers, however, may find themselves less enchanted by the novel's implausible characters, preposterous dialogue and overwrought prose style. They may also be maddened by the slow pace at which Mother of Pearl weaves together its numerous subplots and meanders around the narrative turns that you can see coming, hundreds of pages down the line. (Hyperion, $23.95)
Bottom Line: Turgid melodrama of small-town southern life