Mother of Pearl is a stand-alone novel by debut author Kellie Coates Gilbert. Set in a close-knit community in Idaho where football reigns supreme, this is an extremely well written and moving story, very relevant for our times. To put it simply, Kellie Coates Gilbert is an author to watch.
Mother of Pearl is a wonderful character-driven, relationship drama with court scenes that are top notch - and while I read a lot of novels that fit that description, this story is quite different from anything I've ever read. Relevant, compelling, heartrending, and thought provoking are a few adjectives that quickly come to mind. The writing is tight, infused with Kellie's dry sense of humor, and will keep you turning the pages.
Who will enjoy this story? Anyone who wants a riveting narrative that grabs you from the first and doesn't let go. Those who like character-driven drama with a heroine who feels so real that you'll want to cheer her on. People who have experienced a heartbreaking loss. Mothers everywhere.
At the heart of this story is a mother's fierce and unfailing love. As Barrie sees her daughter beginning the march toward independence, she reflects, "I find myself wishing I could grab the drumsticks and toss them aside, silencing the beat that is drawing her away." What mother can't relate to that feeling?!
Barrie is a strong character, a school guidance counselor whose job is to advocate for students in a school - and community - where football continually trumps academics. "Sometimes that means protecting them from a coach who has yet to understand that the one with the most trophies can still wind up a loser." Pearl's death shines the light on the growing phenomenon of coaches sexually exploiting students, and Barrie becomes a mother who risks her job, marriage, and Pearl's reputation to find answers and see that justice is served.
Spiritual themes are subtle, but ever present. Parents often grieve in very different ways, and we see that in Barrie and Steve. Barrie struggles with the faith that Steve finds solace in, and feels that he is moving on without her: "I wish I were a religious woman. Maybe faith would be an antidote to a world that crumbles beneath your feet." Spiritual themes of faith, hope, and recovery are always present just beneath the surface.
Watching Barrie grieve reminds me of the many times I have felt awkward around someone who has lost a loved one, not knowing what to say. Barrie feels somewhat detached and notices how uncomfortable her friends seem, "as if my horrible luck might be contagious." And I felt for Barrie because she didn't have an unshakable faith to support her. But her strength and determination to bring justice do eventually lead to the embracing of a timid faith. I like how Kellie leaves some things to our imagination, and after the celebration scene in the last chapter, I can easily envision the advocate for Christ that Barrie will become.
While I would have liked to see certain things explored in more depth - the background surrounding Pearl's birth, the strained relationship between Barrie and her mother, conflict resolution between Barrie and Steve, for instance - the story focused exactly on what it needed to focus on. I will say, however, that if Kellie had written a 500-page novel with more storylines fleshed out, I would have been glued to every page.
Readers, please don't shy away from this book because it deals with a teenager's death, but be drawn by the fact that it tells the story of a woman who overcomes an unexpected, life-changing obstacle. In Kellie's words, "I write about messy lives, and eternal hope."
I eagerly anticipate what Kellie writes next, and highly recommend Mother of Pearl to all readers.
This book was provided by Kellie Coates Gilbert in exchange for my honest review.
Mother of Pearl is an interesting story about commitment to family and staying true to one's self. The author tackled some difficult themesâ€”accountability, forgiveness, and regenerationâ€”to name a few. I liked the way she handled the fact that familiesâ€”including Christian familiesâ€”aren't always what they seem.
When teen-ager, Pearl, meets with what appears to be a typical, teen-age crisis, we are drawn into the family dynamics and how it affects the whole family. As later events unfold, Pearl's mother becomes obsessed with getting to the root of the problem, which creates multiple, but realistic, twists and turns in the story.
I found the story disturbing and a bit unsettling, but timely and in sync with issues we are facing today in our society. As a teacher, I was especially interested in the conflict between sports and academics. A major, current social dilemma was woven into the story and astutely addressed--Our adulation and valuation of sports and sports' figures, at any cost.
I was expecting a lighter read. It is not that. I found Mother of Pearl to be a compelling and thought-provoking novel.
Have you ever judged a book by it's cover and thought hmm that looks like a good book but then once you get into you realise that you are in for a ride because the content of the story is far grittier than you ever imagined ? That's what happened to me with Mother of Pearl, from the cover it looks like quite a posh- upperclassmen novel as we see a mother in a suit and the greens of a field and a rugby ball to the side. Mother of Pearl first introduces us to school guidance counsellor Barrie and her family including daughter Pearl and son Aaron , we then read as Pearl is becoming more and more rebellious, acting out etc and coming home drunk. One night which should have been the happiest day of her life, Barrie is presented with the news that her shining star and daughter Pearl has been killed in a car crash and soon Barrie's straight and narrow life comes crashing down and she lashes out to find someone to blame . It turns out though that Pearl was hiding a dark secret, she was pregnant and then what happens next is one mums race to find out not only the truth and what her daughter went through but also to bring her daughter's lover to justice as he turns out to be an authority and school figure. Can Barrie keep up the trials that she brings to discover the truth or will fighting for the truth, pull her husband and son away for good ?
Mother of Pearl encountered a twist I never imagined but in saying that it was a great twist as it made me want to keep reading the book and also ended up being a story that pulled at your invisible heartstrings causing emotions to be stirred up. I do advise that if you have or no someone that has been involved in a Student/Teacher relationship that has gone to trial etc this book may be a bit too close for comfort.
In the drive to win at all costs is there ever a time when the cost is too high? Barrie Graeber is about to find out.
As a high school counselor Barrie tries to guide and advise the students in career choices. But her authority is being undermined by football coach Michael Warren. And worse yet the school is unwilling to follow Barrie's suggestions as long as Coach Warren is winning.
Pearl Graeber is the perfect daughter and student until her heart is broken by a betrayal of her boyfriend and her best friend. Pearl's life begins unraveling and Barrie is unsure how to help her hurting daughter.
Then the unthinkable happens and Barrie's life is altered forever. Left with a choice Barrie fights the stand firm and to right a wrong that could have been prevented. But to see justice through Barrie must stand against the the all mighty worship of athletic accolades to protect the vulnerable from the predator.
Mother of Pearl is a timely offering that should open dialog about what the true importance of athletics in today's world and the cost of figures of authority crossing the line.
Mother of Pearl looks at the emptiness of life when we don't have a personal, daily relationship with God. When tragedy strikes how do we react? Do we turn to God? Or do we lean on our own strength?
When we are in the midst of trouble we learn not only who our true friends are, but also the true character of those around us. This is a thought provoking book that I would recommend to anyone involved with high school and sports.
Mother of Pearl deals with the hot topics of teen drinking, pregnancy, inappropriate adult/teen behavior and death. This is the perfect book to use to open dialog with your family about any of these topics.
I received a copy of this title from the publisher for the purpose of this review all opinions expressed are my own.
I love discovering new authors, especially when they can produce a debut book as good as this one! Gilbert has written a book featuring beautifully realized characters, a book that draws you in early and keeps you turning the pages. Books featuring characters who are grieving always run the risk of become plodding and slow as the character slowly moves through the stages of grief - but Gilbert avoids that in this book. Despite featuring deep subject matter, the book moves along well throughout, and by the last third of the book I could scarcely put the book down as I waiting to see how the trial would resolve - though of course I expected and hoped for a happy ending! The characters aren't perfect, but instead are human and struggle with things we all do - coping with grief, struggling at times with their marriages, or uncertain how to be the best parent. Yet the characters, especially Barrie, are original and likable, and there is so much to admire and like about them, especially Barrie's determination for justice and to protect other youth from danger.
Mother of Pearl is a wonderful debut, written with skill and deep emotion. Readers looking for a moving and entertaining contemporary read should plan on giving this author a try. I highly recommend this book and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Abingdon Press, and Glassroad Public Relations, for the purposes of this unbiased review.