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THE SNAKE-STONE by Berlie Doherty

THE SNAKE-STONE

By Berlie Doherty

Age Range: 11 - 15

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-531-09512-6
Publisher: Orchard

 A teenager adopted as a foundling baby suddenly feels a need to track down his birth mother in this poignant and well-crafted story. Despite loving adoptive parents, an eager talent for high diving, and a training schedule that takes up every spare minute, James is beset by a restless, rootless feeling. Armed with only a fossil stone and the scrap of an address, he breaks training and secretly sets out for the Derby back country, following a 15-year-old trail. Juggling an array of characters and subplots in ways that enrich rather than crowd the story, Doherty (Dear Nobody, 1994, etc.) lays out not one journey, but two: Elizabeth, a child laden with guilt and remorse for loving a ``wild boy,'' gives birth alone in a hen shed, and treks over the rugged tor on a blustery day to leave her child, and her precious stone, at a strangers door; gathering clues as he goes, James eventually retraces her mountain journey, in reverse. The meeting of mother and son is brief--Elizabeth, now with husband and children, asks a single quiet question--but almost unbearably intense and, at least for James, cathartic; he returns to his familiar life with a new sense of completeness. Although of the two protagonists, Elizabeth has far less presence in the narrative, she is the more vivid character, and her heartrending, heroic trek gives this story most of its emotional impact; still, the space between diving platform and water is not the only place David exhibits native grace and courage. (Fiction. 11-15)