Heartbreaking but still hopeful, this novel is a winding one, full of unexpected stops and turns, and the possibility of second chances.
On the craggy cliffs of Mendocino overlooking the waters of the Pacific, a solitary man contemplates the twisted, tragic path his life has taken and his decision to end it once and for all. Emotionally charged and hauntingly evocative, The Stone Heart from Leo Harrell Lynn explores the complex nature of family, love, and hope, and is at once both delicate and resilient.
After years of searching for true love, forty-four-year-old Shell Stone Lyon has finally given up. Love found, love lost, death, despair, and misfortune seem to shadow his family’s attempts at living a happily ever after. A romantic and poet at heart, Stone attempts to capture his last thoughts and reflections in a journal that becomes a testament of the Lyons’ strengths and shortcomings, beginning with their southern roots in Alabama and the Florida Gulf Coast and spanning generations.
Referred to as a journal, a manuscript, and even a diary, Stone’s passionate writing is essentially a memoir, recalling pivotal moments throughout his life in vignettes told through the voices and recollections of his brothers, Hank and Peter; his sister, Christine; his mother and father; and those who influenced them along the way. With the opening admonition that “all tales of true love are tales of tragedy,” a dark and somber tone is set that carries over into each remembrance. This ominous foreshadowing casts a melancholy resonance on every encounter, causing even sweet scenes to feel tense, awaiting the inevitable destruction that follows. And follow it does, as the book addresses a number of sensitive topics, including suicide, rape, domestic abuse, and murder.
In a true character study, Stone records family dynamics—not at face value, but by exploring the complex relationships of mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, and how each shapes the next generation in their quests for love and acceptance, going as far back as grandparents and great-grandparents and the specific interactions that influenced their children. Cycles of abuse, both physical and verbal, manifest in each child differently, taking into consideration temperaments, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and life experiences. This is a narrative that delves into the psychology of behavior and emotion.
Stone himself is an intriguing study in contrasts, by turns sensitive and cruel, heroic and cowardly, bold and afraid. He is an antihero who struggles to make sense of his feelings and desires. Drawn to beautiful things, words, and music, he expresses himself through poetry. Some of his poems are included in their entirety, while others are just alluded to. His journal is lyrical as well—descriptive and flowing, passionate and engaging, even as the tales most often end in disaster.
Not a typical love story, Leo Harrell Lynn’s The Stone Heart is unique in its intensity and focus on examining the center, or heart, of the relationships that shape young boys and girls into the men and women they become. Heartbreaking but still hopeful, Stone’s journey is a winding one, full of unexpected stops and turns, and the possibility of second chances.
Pallas Gates McCorquodale
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