I cannot stand book reviews. Can't stand reading them, can't stand writing them. When I go to Amazon, I usually only read the first two sentences of the summary, because I'm so afraid that they'll give something away. To me, opening a book is like opening a present--I don't want to know what's inside until I have my grubby hands on it. For me, the best kind of book review to hear is when someone whose taste in books I trust simply says, "Go read it. You'll love it." And that's enough for me.
So it is with all the love in my heart, dear reader, that I tell you: GO READ THIS BOOK. YOU'LL LOVE IT. The book is Jewel, by Bret Lott. And I will tell you nothing--nothing--about the plot, because I can't stand it when book reviews do that.
I've heard about this book for years, and I resisted it. It was Oprah's very first book club selection, and I'm a big of a non-bandwagon-jumper-onner where books are concerned. If Oprah was going to sell it to the masses, well, then *sniff* surely it must be wimpy.
But as I continued to hear about the writer Bret Lott, heard him called one of the Great Southern Writers Of Our Generation in the same vein as Flannery O'Connor, I caved. And I'm so glad I did. This book is the rarest of all book treasure--a riveting, page-turning plot, without a bit of writing quality sacrificed. Lott's words are so rich I felt like I was reading poetry, or eating the richest dessert. I went back and re-read entire pages, just to savor his words. And I'm a speed-reader--I never re-read pages.
This is the kind of passage Lott writes:
I'd taken care of myself most all my days, though things had eased up once I met Leston. Before that, though, before Leston and the stop and start of our havng children and trying to feed our own selves, there was a world sometimes I would like to sooner forget than think about at all. But it's history that matters, what keeps you together in the tight ball of nerves and flesh you are and makes you you and not someone else.
I'd gone on from that life into this one, to a husband providing for me better than most women I knew of, children healthy and fit. The stories of my father's father and of Missy Cook's father had been stones in my pocket, all right, but not the kind to weigh you down, not the sort you pile in before jumping off a bridge. They'd been the polished and smooth ones, stones cool to the touch, tough and foreign and necessary all the same.
How could you not re-read that? Dessert, I'm telling you. Lott is the editor of The Southern Review, a literary publication of Louisiana State University. (It is no small thing for me to link, in any way, to a school that is a football rival of the Arkansas Razorbacks; that's how much I love this guy.)
I'll be adding every last one of Mr. Lott's books to my reading list, eagerly. Don't miss this author.