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A Stone Boat

by Robin Blake

In novel after film after mini-series, a death in the family is dragged into one of three grooves – parental heroism, Freudian guilt, the burden of a bad childhood. But Solomon’s story, of a young man loving his mother and losing her to cancer, sidesteps the clichés. In Harry’s cultured New York family, his mother is all grace, beauty and commonsense with a single flaw, dismay at her gay son’s idea of Eros – which, in certain moods, he shares. Facing terminal illness she chooses with stoicism the manner of her death, while Harry struggles to define the joy of his childhood: “Happiness is not too sentimental or too hackneyed to portray; it is too obscure, too personal, too strange.” Solomon’s greatest triumph in this first novel is his sympathy.