Shortly before daybreak in War, West Virginia, a passing train derails and spills an avalanche of coal over sixteen-year-old Emma Palmisano’s house, trapping her sleeping family inside. The year is 1924, and the remote mines of Appalachia have filled with families like Emma’s immigrant laborers building new lives half a world away from the island of Sicily. Emma awakes in total darkness, to the voice of a railroad man, Caleb Sypher, digging her out from the suffocating coal. From his pocket he removes two spotless handkerchiefs and tenderly cleans Emma’s bare feet. Though she knows little else about this railroad man, Emma marries him a week later, and Caleb delivers her from the gritty coal camp to thirty-four acres of pristine Virginia mountain farmland.
In the Garden of Stone is a multi-generational tale about the nature of power and pride, love and loss, and how one family endures estrangement from their land and each other in order to unearth the rich seams of forgiveness. Bleak, harrowing, and beautifully told, In the Garden of Stone is a haunting saga of endurance and redemption.
The Setting~ West Virginia came alive through the descriptions in this novel. The descriptions of the landscape made me feel as if I were really there.The times featured were interesting as well. When we imagine the past we think of a simpler time. Things may have been simpler but they were also harder than we can imagine.
The Pace~ This tale unwound in a deliciously slow way.
The Characters~ The people in this book were flawed, which is just another word for realistic. I miss spending time with them. Can we expect a sequel? I’m crossing my fingers.
The Format~ You could argue that this is a book of short stories. I enjoyed learning new details about certain events when the story was told from a different characters perspective. This method really worked to drive the story forward in a unique way.
The Mood~ The description above nailed it: bleak, harrowing, and haunting. The language is beautifully poetic.
In the Garden of Stone is a book I can easily recommend.
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