cover image STAINED GLASS


Michael Bedard, . . Tundra, $17.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-88776-552-0

Bedard's (Redwork) carefully constructed novel is rooted in mysticism, but its heartfelt scenes are grounded in reality. Charles is hiding in St. Bartholomew's church instead of going to his piano lesson when the caretaker accidentally shatters a stained glass window. Hearing a moan, Charles discovers a waif covered in bits of glass, hurt and without any memory. He checks on her the next day and ends up traveling around the city, trying to help her remember who she is. But something's strange: she never hungers or tires, and she has an uncanny ability to disturb "the dust that had settled over the inner chambers of him." Making metaphorical use of the caretaker's attempt to reassemble the window, the author pieces into the plot Charles's memories, episodes from the tragic life of the caretaker (a former glassmaker) and historical information about glassmaking. The story line unfolds slowly, and readers might be frustrated by the flitting from place to place, from past to present. But touching, memorable moments shine through with force, as when Charles earns his grandmother's wrath by turning her old LP of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets into a clock for a school project. By the end, Charles—and readers—will understand Gran's point of view: "Nothing was simply what is was. [Everything] was steeped in meaning." Ages 11-up. (Nov.)