STONECUTTER by Leander Watts


Age Range: 10 - 14
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A young journeyman stonecutter becomes entangled in a web of emotions he cannot begin to navigate when he accepts a job from a mysterious man in this rather pointless gothic meditation set in 1835. Fourteen-year-old Albion Straight has reservations when a stranger’s agent approaches him to carve a monument, but lured by both the fee offered and the opportunity to make his professional name, he agrees. Hidden in the undeveloped wilderness of western New York’s Genesee River Valley, John Good’s mansion-in-the-making has attached to it a company of workers who seem to labor as virtual slaves to the autocratic Good. It turns out that Albion has been brought to Goodspell to carve a tomb for Good’s wife, 15 years dead, in a natural limestone cave that gives Albion the willies. Moreover, he is expected to use as model Good’s daughter Michal, who is the very image of her mother and whose birth precipitated her mother’s death. Told in the form of Albion’s diary entries, the narrative takes on the labored cadence of swollen Victorian language: “The strange illumination made them both ghastly, red-faced, and quaking in the lantern’s light. Tho they’d ceased speaking, it seemed that the echoes of their quarrel still flitted like bats around the great chamber. A crazed light shone in Michal’s eyes.” The relationship Albion glimpses between Good and Michal is indeed disturbing, but frustratingly, it is not explored enough within the narrative to make it other than vaguely creepy. Although both Michal’s and Albion’s distress at their powerlessness in the face of Good’s obsession is obvious to the reader, the climax and dénouement that result seem hastily thrown-together after the many pages of careful exposition that has gone before. In the end, there’s lots of atmosphere, but little story here. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 2002
ISBN: 0-618-16474-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2002


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