Press Release & Reviews
Pearls My Mother Wore
Terry Sue Harms
Hairdresser / novelist
Sonoma, CA March, 2010 –
I told Terry Sue Harms that I would help her write a press release but I would rather just tell you why I think her novel has merit even though she was illiterate into her 20s and is a hairdresser without an MFA.
Ruth Henrich of Salon.com said that her hairdresser had written a novel and she thought I might be able to help her.
So I met with Terry and copy-edited her novel for her. I corrected spelling and grammar mistakes. I made whole sentences out of run-ons and fragments. I also made one structural suggestion -- that she begin the novel where it begins today, with the protagonist returning home after the funeral of her husband and collapsing on the floor.
What I find admirable about this work is its untutored fidelity to internal phenomena, a fidelity that is at times clumsy but is also fierce and unrelenting. There are many ways to express grief, anger and revelation. A writer tutored in an MFA program might create a many-layered, lacquered sheen of grief, anger and revelation. What Terry has done, it seems to me, is make a large, true-to-life, lumbering monster of grief, anger and revelation. The monster has been made crudely but with the great loyalty of an innocent. What Terry seems to have done, and what interests me, is surrender herself to the material of consciousness that arrived unbidden, and she has done her best to be faithful to that.
From a literary aesthetic point of view, there are some "mistakes" in this novel. There are things that you might "wince" at if you are a sophisticated reader. But there is also something I find rare in contemporary fiction, which is the sense of a writer going naked into the war-torn field of her own dreams and traumas and reporting as best she can the truths about herself that she finds there.
So you might find this novel fraught with evidence of a beginner at work. She is indeed a beginner. She was, indeed, illiterate until she was in her 20s.
And I did work with Terry on this book and she did pay me money to work with her on this book. My wife designed this book and Terry did pay her money to do that.
But I am not really being paid to publicize this book. Terry was going to pay me to write a press release but I decided I ought to just say what I think. And this is what I think.
I hope you will take a look at this book and say what you think about it.
Read the column!
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For a review copy of Pearls My Mother Wore and contact information:
Terry Sue Harms
By Writer’s Digest Magazine’s 18th Annual Self-Published Book Awards contest judge #47Pearls My Mother Wore by Terry Sue Harms has a really attractive cover design; the write-up on the back cover is very good, giving the impression of a sensitive and intelligent, as well as poignant, novel. On the whole, the reader’s expectations to find those qualities are met. The author deftly intertwines past and present to demonstrate the way people never escape their pasts. Events decades old can profoundly affect an individual on a daily basis, and in making that point, the author succeeds in creating believable characters, providing impressive insight into human nature, and evoking truth.
By Joanna Biggar:
"Pearls My Mother Wore," by Terry Sue Harms, is a quest story with a twist.
Uncluttered and very readable, the story wraps around two unlikely
characters: Kelly, a newly widowed hairdresser in her 40s, and her
20-something nephew by marriage, Mitch. Mitch appears dirty, down-and-out,
clueless, and unannounced at Kelly's house right after the funeral for his
uncle, whom he doesn't yet know has died. Kelly and Mitch have been
estranged for four years, since he had left abruptly after trying the
patience of his aunt and uncle who had tried to give him a place to live and
stability. His thanks was to steal from them, and among the things he took
were the pearls belonging to Kelly's mother, all that Kelly had of hers,
except troubled and conflicting memories.
While the unlikely duo, Kelly and Mitch, dance around each other and toward
a tentative reconciliation, in private Kelly allows the full range of grief,
both for her mother and husband, to possess her. In some deeply moving
scenes, the reader is silent witness to her early wounds and later love, and
the loss she wears visibly in the form of her husband's cut-down clothes.
Underlying all this is her determination to find her mother's pearls, and
Mitch's role in their loss and recovery.
The language and sense of detail in this first novel are just right, and the
characters will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
'Pearls my Mother Wore' is a well written story of a woman as she fights
her way back from despair. It is told with insight and humor, with a touch
of treasure hunt. Perfect for a quiet weekend's read. I would recommend it
A fast read. The author explains in vivid after vivid scene what real pain
feels like after a loss of a true love. This real pain is not glorified
"Landing on the solid floor did not stop the freefall I was in." but gut
wrenching. Then comes the memories of her troubled childhood she could no
longer deny. The how and why of it all was unbearable but the heroine finds
a way out in a fabulous and intellectual way. Give the book one or two
nights and you will come away changed. I loved it.
By G. Casais:
Pearls my Mother Wore is a warm read. Terry Sue Harms has captured the
heart of a woman who was lost after the death of her husband. Reconnecting
and forgiving a wayward nephew helps her find her way back to life.
By Sonoma hiker:
Grief has many paths. Each of us makes our way through our loses and some
of us come to our individual healing. Terry Harms weaves the path in and out
of time, screaming and quiet, blaming and forgiving, for her characters in
Pearls My Mother Wore.
Her novel is one story of a universal process that offers an engaging read,
a laugh, a tear and reflection.
By Half Moon Bay Reader:
These are flawed characters going through difficult times, but generosity
of spirit and good humor prevail. The book is unflinching at times but never
disturbing. It is very balanced and entertaining. The author's enthusiasm
for her project radiates throughout the narrative. The reader is left
wondering--where is the sequel?
Terry Harms has written about loss and grief in a highly personal, intimate
manner. You feel Kelly's loss. It almost becomes yours. The reader grieves
both with Kelly and alongside her. We share Kelly's frustration with her
nephew. We are there as both major characters grow and mature in their once
prickly relationship to an acceptable resolution. A very good first novel.
We await a second novel from Terry Harms.
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