cover image The Snake-Stone

The Snake-Stone

Berlie Doherty. Orchard Books (NY), $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-531-09512-6

An adopted boy searches for his birth mother in this sensitive British novel from the author of White Peak Farm. Fifteen-year-old James, a champion diver, narrates most of the story, which is interwoven with brief but poignant passages in the unknown mother's voice. James, fortuitously, has the note, written on the back of a torn envelope, that his birth mother presumably left with him (""Look after Sammy"") before abandoning him in a stranger's mailbox. Even more fortuitously, the envelope bears fragments of a return address. A portrait in determination, James discerns the beginnings of a trail. As James investigates, the mother recounts, in minimal but telling detail, the wrenching events surrounding his birth. Doherty gradually, deftly draws the two narrative strands together, leading to the moment-all the more powerful for what is left unsaid-when mother and son meet. She leaves both James and the reader ample opportunity to sort out the conflicting feelings inherent to his search, and his eventual acceptance of his true, adoptive home seems all the more satisfying for its being hard-won. A touching exploration of a difficult subject. Ages 11-up. (Apr.)