Stony Kill: A Novel

Marie White Small. SelectBooks, $16.95 trade paper (325p) ISBN 978-1-59079-311-4
In Small's sprawling, evocative debut, Joss Ellen Ryckman stops running from her past and, after the death of her mother, returns to her childhood farm in upstate New York. The book follows Joss as she navigates owning the Brooklyn bakery her mother started—which she's been managing since she was 20—and then moving into the farmhouse. Small's expansive prose spares no expense on powerful and descriptive details. Much of the book is spent in reminiscence as Joss spins endlessly in the revolving door of memory, comparing her life now with her childhood on the farm. Her memories circle mainly around her father, Big Paul, who called her "Paulie-girl" or "Boy-o" and had a set of expectations Joss is only now realizing she could never live up to. Among a larger cast of characters, past and present, the winding narrative follows Joss coming to terms with her own agency and realizing that the past doesn't necessarily determine the future. Joss also decides to stop hiding from two family tragedies: one of her mother's and one of her own. These haunting moments bookend the narrative and illuminate the raw edges of Joss' experience. This deeply expressive book is a fine exploration of personal history and the significance of place as a means of finding oneself. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 04/11/2016
Release date: 10/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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