2016 Reading List #39: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis

Sometimes the best answer to a lazy day is spending it in bed with a good book.

Welcome to my Tuesday.

After returning last night from a 4-day trip to visit friends in Nebraska and thirteen-hours in the car, I think it was fair to enjoy a quiet day in. Everyone needs a little time to recover.

I started The Twelve Tribes of Hattie while we were on vacation, but I’d hardly made any progress in my reading. Today, though, I read 240 pages and finished this multi-generational tale.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a bit difficult to categorize—it’s a novel, but in some ways it reads more like a short story cycle. Hattie Shepherd is at the novel’s center, but each chapter focuses on one of her eleven children. The book spans 55 years in the life of Hattie’s family, offering limited glimpses into each of her children across time.

I appreciated the simplicity of Mathis’s novel. Because of the book’s style, we really do only get small glimpses into these characters’ lives, which is sometimes unsettling, but also bring an air of authenticity to the reading experience. These are not necessarily extraordinary moments in their lives, but moments of clarity or growth. I wished to know more about some of them before the novel’s end, but I think Mathis’s decision to remain a bit ambiguous maintains the book’s realistic qualities.

Since I sped through The Twelve Tribes of Hattie so quickly today, I’m a bit unsure where to turn next in my reading ventures. Here’s to many more quiet days spent with good books.

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