Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Book Review Club - Like Water on Stone

Like Water on Stone
Dana Walrath

I had the great pleasure of knowing Dana while I was a student at Vermont College. She is a woman of many talents and a thought-provoking speaker. Her novel, Like Water on Stone, was a labor of love that started, I think, while she was at Vermont College and continued on after she'd completed the program. I cheered when I heard it had been acquired, not simply because a fellow VCFA'er had placed a story but because this book brings a rich form of diversity to not only kidlit but literature overall.

Basic Premise: It's 1914. Shahen dreams of moving to New York where part of his family has already immigrated. His father, initially, stands in his son's way. He loves their life in Armenia. And then the Ottoman empire, in decline, goes to war. Religion suddenly matters, and not in a good way. Much of Shahen's family, Christians, including his parents and older brothers, are murdered by troops. Shahen and two of his sisters flee across the mountains to safety and, eventually, a new life in America.

The story was inspired by Walrath's own family story of immigration. 

There are a variety of interesting elements to take away from this piece. The most hard-hitting is that this is a story of genocide. How does a kidlit writer tackle such hard stuff and not overwhelm her reader? Walrath chose to write her story in verse, her reasoning being, the material is so graphic, so emotionally full, by painting with thinner strokes, it is possible to share and yet not overwhelm a younger audience. Not once did I ever feel words were missing, nor did I feel as if I couldn't keep reading. It's a masterful use of a writer's tool. In so doing, Walrath exposes her audience to the concept that genocide is, very unfortunately, a recurring theme in human history, and opens the story of for debate by leaving the reader wondering: why? Why do we as humans tend toward annihilation of others? It's a contemporary topic.

Further, the novel is told from alternating POVs. It was truly fascinating to both read and see POV change by changing poetic structure. It's yet another tool to add to the toolbox.

For other great reads, you don't even need to get out your galoshes, just spring over to Barrie Summy's website. Happy reading!


Sarah Laurence said...

Sounds like a good use of verse! I like how the author has drawn on her own family history. Thanks for the intro to an author new to me.

Cloudbuster said...

Yay, Dana! I'm dying to read this one. I'm so happy it's finally out! Great review, Stacy, as always :-)

Barrie said...

I hadn't heard of this book. So glad you reviewed it. I think it takes a very special talent to be able to write in verse. Thanks!

troutbirder said...

A degree of separation on this topic (verse) seems appropriate though I did stay with Anne Frank for my 8th graders back in the day.....

Rose said...

Sounds like a fascinating book on a very relevant theme. Thanks for the great review!

Ellen Booraem said...

Stacy, thanks so much for this--I have this book sitting on my TBR pile, and it just moved up to the top. I grew up with Armenian friends for whom the genocide was very present, so I'm eager to learn more.