Kathryn Elizabeth Jones,
A River of Stones
(Bedside, 2002)

Kathryn Elizabeth Jones's debut novel A River of Stones is intended to be about a preadolescent girl's struggle to deal with all the changes in her life and her search for some kind of inner peace. The novel, however, is little more than a jumble of dysfunctions of varying degrees of severity.

Narrated in first person by Samantha, nicknamed Sam, the story covers a lot of ground. In the first few pages, Sam's parents divorce, her mother remarries and her stepfather adopts her and her brother. The rest of the novel has Sam stumbling through a series of emotions, actions and reactions.

Her friend June is obsessed with hypnotizing Sam and their other friend Bruce, and all three of them are convinced that an elderly neighbor is a vampire. This silly plot twist gets thoroughly beaten into the ground. Sam finally finds solace in the Church of Latter-day Saints, and the "coincidences" that lead her there are fairly obvious and thinly developed.

The meandering and often ridiculous plot jumps from scene to scene with little cohesiveness. Jones has a tendency to refer to events not described or is inconsistent in the chronology of events. Sometimes her plot choices are bewildering: why would her stepfather wait a year or so to tell Sam that she has a stepbrother? Why is Sam so upset that her father doesn't visit her when she wrote to him and told him not to? What psychiatrist sees patients on a Sunday morning?

There isn't a likeable person in the book, particularly Sam, who is in turns nasty, obnoxious, self-centered, cruel and crude. Possibly, these character traits were chosen to demonstrate her dysfunctional nature and to show how accepting her new faith changes all that, but the character is neither convincing nor appealing.

Give A River of Stones a miss. With so many well-written novels on similar themes sitting on library and bookstore shelves, there is no reason to even consider reading this title.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 13 September 2003

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