In the backwoods of Mississippi, a land of honeysuckle and grapevine, Jewel and her husband, Leston, are truly blessed; they have five fine children. When Brenda Kay is born in 1943, Jewel gives thanks for a healthy baby, last-born and most welcome.
Jewel is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, like lightning, an unforeseen event can set us on a course without reason or compass. In this story of a woman's devotion to the child who is both her burden and God's singular way of smiling on her, Bret Lott has created a mother-daughter relationship of matchless intensity and beauty, and one of the finest, most indomitable heroines in contemporary American fiction. - Amazon
Jewel and her husband, Leston, have been blessed by a fifth child, a girl they name Brenda Kay. But Brenda Kay, who was born with Down's syndrome, is also a challenge. In this inspirational and deeply moving audiobook, Jewel realizes that Brenda Kay is her special gift from God. - Goodreads
Dyana on Goodreads wrote:
I saw dozens of copies of Jewel on thrift store shelves so I had to wonder why. Once I started this book, I could not put it down. The story is gripping and very true-to-life. Jewel starts out as a poor woman from Mississippi expecting her sixth child in 1943--in other words, a very ordinary, average person living like so many others at the time. When Brenda Kay is born, everything changes and Jewel must face the challenge of raising what today we call a "special needs" child. This euphemism had not been invented in the 1940's, so the doctors tell the parents their daughter is a "Mongoloid idiot." Jewel rejects the advice of experts to put Brenda Kay in an institution, even though at the time it was advice most parents of children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities followed. Most families did not attempt to care for their disabled children on their own, or they gave up when the lack of community support systems proved to be too much. Schools could legally turn away disabled children. Easter Seals, United Cerebral Palsy, the ARC and other organizations providing services parents could not manage on their own were still years in the future. The turning point for Jewel is an article she finds in a third-hand copy of Reader's Digest that describes a program in California to help children like Brenda Kay. Jewel then becomes totally focused on moving to California and we see what a determined woman will do for her daughter. The plot takes many twists and turns over the years and at the end of the book I am laughing in disbelief. Jewel and Brenda Kay live in California where there are many services for adults as well as children with developmental disabilities. In fact, Jewel feels over scheduled with options like dances, outings and other events! The book has come full circle, bringing Jewel and Brenda Kay along. Jewel's final decision is making sure Brenda Kay will be safe, secure and able to carry on her life when Jewel dies. She finds the right place, for when the right time comes. Jewel is brave, single-minded, committed and tireless in ways that parents of special needs children must be. This story chronicles the massive changes in public attitudes towards the disabled that took place over the period from the '40's when Brenda Kay was born to the present, and how parents drove these changes. Full disclosure: yes, I am the mother of a child with developmental and physical disabilities and I know all the services my daughter benefits from today at age 36 are available because of the parents like Jewel who refused to give up on their children. And those copies of Jewel I see in thrift stores? I buy them and give them away, mostly to parents of kids with special needs who are walking on the road that others have paved. It is a reminder thst we are not the first, and we are not alone
One should not read past reviews until you finish a book. Alot of 2 and 3 stars; but I liked this book immensely, so I gave it a five! It was well written, had good character development, an eye for detail, and was emotion packed. A poor rural Mississippi family's sixth child born in 1943 is a Downs Syndrome child. Instead of putting her daughter, Brenda Kay, in an institution Jewel believes she can "fix" her daughter by moving to California where there is help for such children. Her husband, Leston, strongly opposes the move. This is about one mother's love, devotion, and dedication to her special needs daughter (who never progresses beyond the mental age of six) and the roller coaster involvement for each member of the family. Jewel's dedication to Brenda Kay is honest and genuine even sometimes to the detriment of the rest of the family. But there are also tender scenes of family love as well as Jewel's personal duel with God. Hard to believe it was written by a man!