Thursday, October 7, 2010

THE STONE DIARIES by Carol Shields

Daisy Goodwill's story is that of a conventional life, marked by some rather unusual events. The narration vacillates between first- and third-person, but the voice is mainly Daisy's, beginning with her obese mother's death in bearing Daisy in 1905 in rural Manitoba. Daisy's stonecutter father hands the infant off to a neighbor woman, Clarentine Flett, who leaves her husband to live with her grown son Barker, a botany professor. When Mrs. Flett dies suddenly, Barker is left in somewhat of a pickle. Since it would be unseemly for him to remain the guardian of a 12-year-old girl, Daisy's father Cuyler comes to collect her on his way to a better job in Bloomington, Indiana. His success there enables Daisy to marry a rich ne'er-do-well, but, alas, he jumps/falls from their hotel window during the honeymoon without ever consummating the marriage. (Homosexuality is assumed but never mentioned.) Daisy is now somewhat of a pariah as far as her marital prospects and decides to make a long trip, partly precipitated by her father's remarrying. The most anticipated stop in her journey is a visit to "Uncle" Barker, at least 20 years her senior, with whom she has kept a steady, though uninformative, correspondence. The book covers Daisy's entire life and is sort of a faux biography, complete with family tree and photos, the more recent of which are actually the author's children. I found these touches to be sort of playful on the author's part. As Daisy later goes on sort of a genealogical quest, I was bewildered that she never manifests any curiosity about her mother. As with real lives, some secrets are revealed along the way, and some remain buried when the one who harbors them dies.


Jessica said...

I have this on my TBR list and at first I was really confused when I noticed all the photos in my edition of the book. Thats alot of effort to go to but I look forward to reading it

Patti's Pages said...

The photos confused me, too, but some googling yielded the answer. Thanks for stopping by!