Book Review: Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

My first impression of this book was that it was very formal and pretentious in style. I decided that since I had heard that it was a good book, a modern classic, that I would continue on and not be too judgmental right off. Harriet Doerr was awarded a National Book Award for this work of fiction, so it must have some merit. After about the first chapter, I had settled in and her style then became more familiar and I could feel her talent for telling a story.

In Stones for Ibarra, an American couple in their forties, decide to reinvent their life by moving down to live in a small, rural Mexican village. Richard has been told that he only has roughly six years to live. In that time, they reopen an old copper mine that Richard's grandfather had owned and operated. Life in Mexico is not as idyllic as they had anticipated, but they make a sanctuary for themselves from which they can observe their surroundings.

This book is told through character sketches or really short stories. Each chapter is a portrait of one of the villagers. The plot is advanced, but it takes a kind of a backseat to what is happening overall. It is within the short stories that the author is able to shine. She shows us how even the most insignificant of subjects cannot escape the hand of fate.

I think that it is a book that will grow on me over time. I can see it's beauty now, but I know that I don't fully understand it. When I started it, I was just looking for a good story to read and didn't know it would be more than that. It is a great piece of literature. With that said, it was frustrating to me at times because I just wanted to know more about Sara and Richard. I wanted more about them. I also wanted her to discover religion of some kind. I finally just had to accept it to enjoy it.

My Rating

Overall: 3.5 It's hard for me to rate this book. It wasn't my favorite in terms of a great story, but I recognize it's literary value. It should probably get 4 stars.

Objectionable Content: There were a few sexual references. Nothing explicit.


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