The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 22 August 2002

The Stone Diaries

by Carol Shields

Daisy Goodwill Flett, daughter of Cuyler Goodwill and Mercy Stone, was born in 1905, and this remarkable book begins with that hopeful and tragic event. Part memoir, part portrait, this is Daisy's life as told in moving chapters of her life, and those of the people who preceded her and surround her. This is an ambitious and mostly successful book. Daisy seems mostly passive, as the events in her life merely happen to her. What we get is an incredibly detailed outline of the woman and her life. What the reader has to infer, mostly, are Daisy's inner thoughts, hopes and dreams. These elements are never clear, but the surrounding people and events convey Daisy's life in an unlikely and unique way. She was raised in a small quarry town in Manitoba, marries young, goes off to college and marries again. She raises her kids and other young relatives, and she muddles through a life spanning the century. And Daisy harbors her own private secrets and fears. While the book feels narrated by Daisy, we get a lot of the story from the point of view of her friends, her husband Barker Flett, her daughter Alice, and even from her father-in-law. Shields acknowledges the gaps she leaves in Daisy's life, but to great affect. She captures the sense of unfulfilled dreams beautifully. Life is too short. The only one we get, remarkable and beautiful in its own way. Shields' writing is often dense, but also often insightful and compassionate. Great book.

(For this book, Shields was awarded the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.)

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