The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

“My mother’s name was Mercy Stone Goodwill. She was only thirty years old when she took sick, a boiling hot day, standing there in her back kitchen, making a Malvern pudding for her husband’s supper. A cookery book lay open on the table: ‘Take some slices of stale bread,’ the recipe said, ‘and one pint of currants; half a pint of raspberries; four ounces of sugar; some sweet cream if available.’ Of course she’s didvided the recipe in half, there being just the two of them, and what with the scarcity of currants, and Cuyler (my father) being a dainty eater. A pick-and-nibble fellow, she calls him, able to take his food or leave it.”

If Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits (a similarly sprawling epic spanning multiple generations of one family) is dark chocolate Haagen Daz ice cream, Carol Shields’s The Stone Diaries fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt. One is a decadent, wonderful indulgence; the other is pretty good for what it is.

Okay, I understand that this won the Pulitzer prize, and is therefore amazing. I recognize and appreciate that the writing is wonderfully done, and I had no trouble finishing this story and was glad I read it. But for some reason, it just never grabbed me in any meaningful way. It’s a story about an ordinary woman, living an ordinary life, and dying an ordinary death. Nothing earth-shattering.

Verdict: three out of five stars


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