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Jewel    by Bret Lott order for
by Bret Lott
Order:  USA  Can
Washington Square, 1999 (1991)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Jewel by Bret Lott is an older novel but, nonetheless, pertinent to families of today. After five healthy children and many years of marriage, Brenda Kay is born to Jewel and Leston. In 1943, not too much was done to help parents of what were then called Mongoloid Idiots! Her parents are advised to put Brenda Kay in an institution as she would never speak or walk or live past two years of age.

In outrage, Jewel and Leston take Brenda Kay home, working every day to give the child the best life of which she is capable. Jewel learns of homes for such as Brenda Kay in California and she has her work cut out for her to convince Leston to leave his birthplace of Mississippi.

The story moves on to describe their trip west and interaction with their grown children. What impressed me most was the dedication given to Brenda Kay and the enveloping love. They all weather the stares and crude comments of those who denigrate Brenda Kay as a lesser human being. Jewel's talks with God show her disbelief that a benign Creator would give them a child like this.

One thing that gave me pause was the use of the 'n' word to depict their neighbors and co-workers. I had great difficulty with this. I understand that at the time of the book, that word was commonly used, especially in the South, but it sure rubbed me the wrong way.

Jewel is a book that will force you to face some of your own beliefs. And also make you wonder how you would handle such a situation. As well as force you to ponder your relationship with God. You will cry, laugh and cheer. It is impossible not to be emotional while you read of this family that almost dissolved because they had a child with Down's Syndrome. This well-written novel is well worth a read.

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