Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: 'The Book of Stone' by Jonathan Papernick

Boston author Jonathan Papernick has tow other novels to his credit – THE ASCENT OF ELI ISRAEL and THERE IS NOT OTHER. He has taught fiction writing at Pratt Institute, Brandeis University, Bar Ilan University and GrubStreet and now is Senior Writer-in-Residence at a Boston Area College.

More important to the dissemination of this important book is the history of its writing form the authors comments:’ I had worked as a reporter in Jerusalem in the year after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, a time of violence and terror, in which the mirage of peace slipped farther and farther away from reality. I went to graduate school in New York two years later, where I ultimately wrote my first collection of stories that took place in Jerusalem during the collapse of the Oslo Peace Accords. Living in Jerusalem is an intense experience, there amid the very whirlwind from which the three major religions arose, passions and prophecies run high… Over the many years of writing and rewriting this novel, the Twin Towers fell, America went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded on camera by Islamic terrorists, Israel went to war against Hamas in Gaza, and anti-Semitism around the world surged. I always knew where I wanted to go with the novel, but it took a long time for me to understand how to get there, and each of these horrific events helped to color my understanding that violent extremism is perhaps the single greatest threat to civilized society.’

The result is a compelling work that could not be in circulation at a better time. Jonathan’s synopsis makes that clear: ‘The Book of Stone examines the evolution of the terrorist mentality and the complexities of religious extremism, as well as how easily a vulnerable mind can be exploited for dark purposes. Matthew Stone has inherited a troubling legacy: a gangster grandfather and a distant father—who is also a disgraced judge. After his father’s death, Matthew is a young man alone. He turns to his father’s beloved books for comfort, perceiving within them guidance that leads him to connect with a group of religious extremists. As Matthew immerses himself in this unfamiliar world, the FBI seeks his assistance to foil the group’s violent plot. Caught between these powerful forces, haunted by losses past and present, and desperate for redemption, Matthew charts a course of increasing peril—for himself and for everyone around him.’

Jonathan punctuates the drama of his story by infusing it with the impact of family – and we know from his notes that his own relationship to his family plays a role here. This is brilliant writing, insightful observations, and a psychological thriller the like of which we have not seen in to long a time. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, June 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.