I picked up this book about five years ago. I was on a Girl’s Weekend with my (at the time) boyfriend’s step mom and a few other people. One of the “other people” was a high school English teacher. In talking about our favorite books (which, after discovering she was an English teacher, was all I wanted to talk about), she mentioned Stones From the River as being one of her all-time favorite books. We had the same opinion on many other books, so this was one of the highest recommendations I could get, as far as I was concerned. I bought the book right away, but the plot didn’t call to me, so it has patiently been waiting for me to see the error of my ways and pick it as the next novel I would read. Lucky for the book (and lucky for me), my book club picked it as the book we would read in December (we never did meet in December…the holidays made things too hectic).
Stones From the River is about a zwerg (German for dwarf), Trudi, who lives in Germany. The novel spans 40 years or so, from 1915 when Trudi is born until the early 1950s. This book is about Trudi trying to feel part of the community in which she grows up.
*As a side note, the back of the book says, “Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share – from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he’s a girl, to the Jews Trudi harbors in her cellar.” Based on this sentence, I would have thought that her friend Georg being treated like a girl by his parents would have been a bigger storyline, but it was just a minor blip. At least in my opinion.
What I liked about this book is that Trudi could be any one of us…all of us are trying to “fit in” and be loved and have friends. Even better than that, Trudi grows as a person. She has a chip on her shoulder that seems to diminish as she gets older. This book is the very opposite of House of Sand and Fog. None of the characters in House of Sand and Fog would learn. I never felt one inkling of pity for any one of them. I suppose there are some people like that in the world, but their story certainly isn’t heartwarming. The people who learn and grow from their mistakes and attitudes are the ones that bring tears to your eyes, because we all know how hard, and ultimately painful, that can be. That’s what makes this book great.
This book is probably not on my Top 10 List, but excellent nonetheless. Interestingly enough, two people in my book group said that this book would be on their Top 10 List.
Rating: 92 out of 100