by Melinda Haynes
In some ways Mother of Pearl is like Southern novels are supposed to be - dense, muggy, humid human tales that consider race and religion and morality, developing macrocosmic conclusions from front-porch view points. It's also like many Southern novels in that it's tragic, comic and slightly shocking. And certainly frustrating. And the characters are also pretty standard -- the odd boy, the good-hearted African-American father figure, the smart-mouthed African-American house keeper, the oddball lesbian aunties, the kooky foreign spiritualist.
But what makes Haye's novel such an engaging read is that with all for all of it's 'standard Southern-novel-ness' it's still manages to surprise. To really surprise, without ever resorting to shocking. I like to be surprised.