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A Stone Boat

by Alison Carb Sussman

Andrew Solomon’s first novel, A Stone Boat, is a shimmering remembrance of things past and a meditation on love and death. Harry, a young concert pianist, divides his time between London, where he lives with his English lover, Bernard, and New York, where his mother is dying of cancer. Harry adores her — she has nurtured his artistic temperament since childhood, when “our happiness seemed to form a sort of cloud of magic” — but he is angry with her for insisting that he lead a sexually conventional life and for attributing the onset of her disease to the stress involved in dealing with a gay son. It is not until she faces death in her own way that Harry forgives her, observing, “I have learned now that loss and forgiveness come only too readily to join each other, like shy and sorry partners at a crowded dance.” Mr. Solomon’s novel could use less rumination and more dialogue, as well as fuller coverage of the motivations of minor characters; nevertheless, it evokes with sensitivity and compassion the severing of a deeply rooted, complex relationship.