Monday, July 22, 2013

Canadian Historical Fiction Review: Stony River by Tricia Dower

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Pages: 400
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: July 24, 2012
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

Stony River, New Jersey, 1955: On a sweltering June afternoon, Linda Wise and Tereza Dobra witness a disturbing scene. A pale, pretty girl who looks about their age is taken from Crazy Haggerty’s house by two uniformed policemen. Everyone in Stony River thought Crazy Haggerty lived alone. The pale, pretty girl is about to enter an alien world, and as Tereza and Linda try to make sense of what they’ve seen, they’re unaware their own lives will soon be shattered as well.

Set in a decade we tend to think of as a more innocent time, Stony River shows in dramatic and unexpected ways how perilous it was to come of age in the 1950s with its absent mothers, controlling fathers, biblical injunctions, teenaged longing, and small-town pretence. The threat of sexual violence is all around: angry fathers at home, dirty boys in the neighbourhood, strange men in strange cars, a dead girl, and another gone missing.

An engrossing novel about growing up, finding your voice, and forgiving your family, Stony River is a brilliant story from a remarkable new Canadian voice.

My Review:

This book tells the tale of how one afternoon in 1955 affected the lives of many people in the small town of Stony River, at the heart of the tale is three girls, Tereza, Linda and Miranda but readers have many other voices as well throughout. This book is a coming of age story of three girls who are all growing up in different families and readers get to see how their lives change over time because of the people that they are surrounded by.

I really enjoyed the setting of this story, taking place in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. It's the type of place where you are supposed to always feel safe, but this book shows that even these small towns have their secrets. Tricia Dower also does such a great job of taking readers back to the time of the 50's, there are many mentions of the TV shows that were on and the music people listened to, even descriptions of the cars that were driven in that period.

These three characters all have very different lives, and each of them takes their circumstances and changes their lives in one way or another. The most interesting girl for me in this book was Miranda, and how she grows up with so many things stacked against her. Watching as Miranda learns new things about herself and the different things she can do was amazing, and I loved how she became independent and trust worthy even though people in the town disliked where she came from.

Tereza has a completely different lifestyle from the other two girls and she learns to take matters into her own hands and makes a life for herself. Tereza is one who hates asking for help, but eventually she lets someone help her get her life back on track and it affects the rest of her life in a large way. I felt bad for Tereza seeing what she went through and then to see her grow up so fast when she shouldn't have to is heart breaking.

Linda's character was the one that I didn't care for as much as the others in the story. Linda grows up as a very guarded child and she is naive about many things in the real world. Her parents are protective to the point that Linda is sheltered and doesn't understand a lot of things. But she grows and learns how to speak up for herself.

I had a few difficulties with the many changing perspectives in the beginning, but it made sense as to why there are so many voices. Not only do we see how one small event changed the lives of the girls who experienced it for themselves but how these three girls change the lives of others along the way.

Honestly, this book is a beautiful portrayal of growing up in the 1950's and the secrets that everyone has. This is a great book about growing up and how different lifestyles can really affect the rest of your life. Tricia Dower has such a unique voice in her writing and she keeps her readers interested in the story.


  1. I'm really excited to read this book. It sounds fabulous and as someone who grew up in a small town I think it's something I'll enjoy

  2. I just finished writing my review of this book and it was a doozy. The book was flawless in transporting you back to the 1950s, wasn't it? Unfortunately, I liked talking about the book and the issues it presented more so than I did the actual book. I didn't like all the perspectives and didn't connect with or find any of the characters very likeable. But it definitely is a good conversation starter/thought-provoking read!



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