The New York Times
"This extraordinarily powerful debut novel chronicles the many sorrows visited upon one Hattie Shepherd, a woman who left the Jim Crow South in the 1920s to start a new life in Philadelphia, and who at 16 lost her twin babies to pneumonia. That loss hardens Hattie’s heart, and she raises nine more children with stoic determination and not a whole lot of warmth — an emotional legacy that will shape the remainder of their lives. Writing with authority and psychological precision, Ms. Mathis endows Hattie’s life with an epic dimension — much as Toni Morrison has done with so many of her characters — while at the same time making her daily life thoroughly palpable and real."
—Michiko Kakutani, 10 Favorite Books of 2012
The Washington Post
"Enthralling. . . . One remarkably resilient woman is placed against the hopes and struggles of millions of African Americans who held this nationto its promise."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
San Francisco Chronicle
"The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" is an exceptional first novel. ...she brings considerable empathic gifts to the detailed realistic snapshots in Hattie's family album, and to the sense of displacement that has contributed to generations of troubles and travails."
—Jane Ciabattari, San Francisco Chronicle
"As unremittingly bleak as her characters’ lives are, Mathis has not produced a grim novel: it is as much about our need for joy as it is about our struggles against bitterness. Written with elegance and remarkable poise, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is rather like its heroine – a bit withholding at times, but memorable and with a hint of something formidable glinting under the surface."
—Sara Churchwell, Guardian, UK
The Plain Dealer
"Hypnotic. . . . In this evocative, ambitious novel, the tragedy is biblical, the reckoning stretches over generations, and a gravitas is granted to otherwise-invisible women and men."
—Karen R. Long, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is beautiful and necessary from the very first sentence. The human lives it renders are on every page lowdown and glorious, fallen and redeemed, and all at the same time. They would be too heartbreaking to follow, in fact, were they not observed in such a generous and artful spirit of hope, in a spirit of mercy, in the spirit of love. Ayana Mathis has written a treasure of a novel."
—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, Tinkers
"Vibrant and compassionate. . . . The characters are full of life, mingled thing that it is, and dignified by the writer's judicious tenderness towards them. This first novel is a work of rare maturity."
— Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Gilead
“The opening pages of Ayana’s debut took my breath away. I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.”
The Boston Globe
"Captivate[s] from the first pages. . . . As certainly as August Wilson did in the plays of his twentieth-century cycle, Mathis is chronicling our nation."
—The Boston Globe, A Best Book of the Year
The Chicago Tribune
"A remarkable page-turner of a novel. . . spans decades and covers dreams lost, found and denied."
—Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune
"A triumph. . . . Magnificently structured, and a sentence-by-sentence treasure—lyric, direct, and true."
“Remarkable…Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
The Sunday Times, UK
"The sum of the novel’s interweaving misfortunes is not only gently gripping but, remarkably, as light as a feather… For a book whose canvas is so ambitiously wide (a dozen characters, stretched across 60 years), this novel’s most admirable feature is it’s quiet ability to highlight big human drama in small moments."
—Robert Collins, The Sunday Times, UK
“Cutting, emotional…pure heartbreak…though Mathis has inherited some of Toni Morrison’s poetic intonation, her own prose is appealingly earthbound and plainspoken, and the book’s structure is ingenious…an excellent debut.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)