Picks and Pans Review: The Stone Diaries
by Carol Shields
Mercy Stone Goodwill, a woman of expansive girth—even before her pregnancy—is seized by a terrible pain while making a Malvern pudding for her husband Cuyler's supper on a hot July afternoon in 1905. Discovered by an itinerant peddler who frantically calls her neighbor Clarentine Flett, Mercy gives birth to a baby girl, Daisy, then expires on the living room couch.
So begins Shields's lush, evocative novel that claimed this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Clarentine promptly abandons her husband and takes the infant to live with her bachelor son Barker, a botany professor at Wesley College in Winnipeg, Man., while Cuyler, a stonecutter by trade, begins building a monument to his dead wife. Daisy, who is reunited with her father at age 11, then spends her adolescence with him in Indiana, forms two lifelong friendships (sorority sisters Fraidy and Beans) and returns to Winnipeg to marry old Barker and raise three children.
The Stone Diaries is the extraordinary story of an ordinary woman, Daisy Goodwill Flett, whose experiences span the century and celebrate the grandeur of work, relationships and family life. Shields has produced an absorbing, subtly comic, beautifully crafted narrative that teaches, entertains and moves to tears. (Penguin, paper, $10.95)
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