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Volume VIII Number 4 . . . . October 19, 2001
Garnet Havelock is counting the days until he will be done with high school. He is ready to move on with his life and get to studying to become a finishing carpenter. He prepares for a school debate on the impossibility of falling in love at first sight, never expecting to do just that during the debate. The new girl in school, Raphaella Skye, arrived in a flurry of rumours and captivates Garnet immediately. Raphaella works in her mother's store, Demeter Natural Foods, and is open to the natural world and alternative viewpoints, including psychic phenomena. Mrs. Skye intends that Raphaella will become a midwife, and her own broken marriage has soured her toward any potential relationships her daughter may have with boys. Garnet's stress-free existence is tested not only by Mrs. Skye's antipathy and his mother's dangerous foray into East Timor as a journalist, but also by his discovery of a mystery centered around an abandoned African Methodist church in his community. Garnet, in investigating a haunting centered around the stoning of a Haitian woman by white members of the community, discovers a crime that is centered around fear and mistrust of differences and different viewpoints. This historic crime neatly parallels an attack on his mother by religious fundamentalists, an attack which proves that, even today, prejudices still abound.
Garnet is a joy. His humour, intelligence and self-awareness make him a realistic and empathetic character who will appeal to a wide range of readers. The story's romance will draw in female readers without becoming too serious. Raphaella's strange home-life is the one jarring note in this novel - her mother's vehemence in Raphaella's future career and her aversion to all males is unrealistic. The ghost elements develop slowly, allowing Garnet and Raphaella to delve into the history of their town in a realistic fashion that highlights the parallels between the earlier time and their own. William Bell has penned an accessible and highly involving book that will appeal to a wide age of readers on different levels. Younger readers will follow the ghost story, older readers will be more interested in the romantic elements, and more discerning readers will appreciate the characterization. Stones could also be used to discuss hate crimes and tolerance.
Betsy Fraser is a librarian in the Calgary Public Library System.
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