Little, Brown 2002

STONE FLOWER GARDEN is a beautiful story of love lost and love redeemed. Deborah Smith has the amazing capability of starting her books through the eyes of a child and having her readers watch the children grow up in front of them. This book is set near Asheville, North Carolina and focuses on those who make a living from the mountain stone quarries. A child always dressed in pink living in a pink mansion in a pink marble town provides a luscious visual feast that readers will not soon forget.

The story begins in 1972 when Darl Union is only seven and Eli Wade is ten. The two become unlikely childhood friends then the bizarre unsolved murder of Darl's aunt disrupts both families. As events in the murder investigation unfold, Eli's father is killed, and Darl's childhood innocence ends. Eli's family leaves the strange community of Burnt Stand. Because of what Darl knows but cannot tell about the murder, she and her grandmother, Swan, have an estranged relationship. If Darl does not keep their secret, she knows the family will be destroyed.

Darl grows up, leaves Burnt Stand, and enters a career as an attorney crusading against the death penalty. Eli becomes a successful and rich businessman. All the while, he secretly keeps up with Darl. Events bring them both back to Burnt Stand where Darl knows, despite what it will do to her family, she must dig up that which was hidden years before. And she must regain Eli's trust.

Swan's rule, written when she was a child, is her doctrine that carries through the book. "The past is carved in stone. Never leave the pieces for someone else to find." Deciding to break that rule is a difficult decision for Darl.

This is a wonderful story with rich characters that are remembered long after the last page is turned.

Reviewed by Monti Sikes, New and Used Books


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