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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

by Ayana Mathis |



Hattie is just 17 when this heartrending debut novel opens in 1925. The daughter of a blacksmith, she’s newly married and carrying twins, living in joyful hope after fleeing the burdens of racism in the South for the relative freedoms of Philadelphia. But Hattie and her electrician husband are soon chastened by life’s bitter realities; her optimism yields to steely resolve as she goes on to mother a brood of nine amid a constant swell of sorrows. Beautifully written and structured, the novel-Oprah’s new book-club pick-devotes each chapter to one or more of Hattie’s children, and their difficult journeys mirror changing aspects of the black experience in America over six decades. Hattie herself remains the least altered, a flawed woman lacking in tenderness but an unwavering force dedicated to her children’s survival. Mathis has created a deeply nuanced portrait of the complexities of family and a resounding paean to the power of motherhood.

In a swiftly changing America, one black family survives thanks to a mother’s harsh love.

Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter

by Melissa Francis |



In this engaging memoir, FOX News financial reporter Francis recalls her heyday on the child-actor circuit. As Michael Landon’s adopted daughter Cassandra in Little House on the Prairie, she knew how to cry on cue-but it was her demanding and oversensitive mom who was the family drama queen. Both because of and despite the pressures, Francis thrived-landing dozens of jobs while scoring straight A’s and even getting into Harvard (where, away from her mother’s influence, she quit acting)-while her big sister wilted. “A fire-breathing dragon of a mom may produce a champion,” concludes Francis, now mother to two sons, “or she might burn her child to death.” Her book brings that poignant truth home.

The Child’s Child

by Barbara Vine |



Unwed mothers, gay brothers and unruly boyfriends anchor this tale of mores and murder from Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell). Grace Easton lives happily with her brother in London until the arrival of his prickly new boyfriend. She escapes by reading The Child’s Child: An unpublished novel set in 1929, it was deemed too risque for its time, but it has uncanny parallels to Grace’s life. Vine vividly conjures the high price paid by social outcasts-even in our own supposedly enlightened age.


by Karen Robards |


Single mom Samantha Jones scrapes together a living by repossessing cars. Trouble is, that BMW she’s winching has a man in the trunk, and soon she’s coldcocked and thrown in with him. The action turns propulsive as Sam, her 4-year-old son, and Marco, the handsome trunk occupant, try to outrun a drug cartel. But Robards, a prolific author of romance thrillers, never leaves lust behind in this entertaining romp. Even bleeding from a bullet wound, Marco admires Sam’s “luscious mouth” and breasts “as firm…as Florida oranges.”

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