Monday, 26 August 2013

Stonefly by Scott J Holliday

Jacob Duke has come back to Braketon­—a sleepy, backwoods town bordering Dover, the mental institution where he spent his formative years. Jacob's intention is to enjoy Braketon's woods and water for the first time as a free man, but he soon discovers that Dover isn't through with him yet. Driven by a curse that compels him to grant any wish he hears, Jacob is drawn back into his disturbing former life by a young boy's desire to see his own father dead.

Complicating things are Lori Nelson, Jacob's friend-with-benefits who continues to put new boyfriends in his path, and Motown, Jacob's friend from his years at Dover, who carries a secret that rocks Jacob's foundation and makes him question his own morality.

This is a lovely short novel. Written in the first person, it gives the central character a strong individual voice. The reader gets inside his head from the outset: "Hey there," I said, pantomining a wave. Idiot. Why not how howdy partner while we're at it."  

Jacob speaks of his "curse" with a matter-of-factness that means that we don't question it. At first. But Jacob has a history, which comes out during the course of the book. Not only is there the period of the mental institution, but also the action that put him there. This unfolding of Jacob's past helps make this more than a simple modern fantasy story. 

His mother told him that she believed his father was a genie or djinn and Jacob believes that he has inherited the djinn's curse of being obliged to grant wishes, but without a genie's magic to fulfill the wish. Hence when the boy wishes his own father dead, Jacob is faced with a dilemma, for as he explains: Make a wish of a djinn and he's bound to grant it. If he cannot grant it - or if he chooses not to grant it - within six days, you will die.

Jacob discovers that the boy's father is abusive towards his son and wife, the local bully, in fact: This guy was comic-book evil. But Jacob cannot risk his newly gained  freedom by killing the man. But he must succeed or the boy will drop dead. That moral dilemma is the major plot driver for me. Without spoiling the book for you, let us just say that the plot twists nicely towards the end. 

Towards the end of the book I started to debate whether the magic was real or not. It is accepted by the main character, as well as by his mother, Lori and Motown. But it could just be coincidence or something to do with Jacob's mental condition. It doesn't matter. The ambiguity of magic realism is what appeals to me. It's up to you to decide. 

The book was given to me by the book's publicist in return for a fair review.

1 comment:

Randwilkes said...

You definitely have my interest piqued - Stonefly, although a lot darker than Daniel Wallace's 'The Kings and Queens of Roam', seems utterly intriguing. I'm not generally given to fiction as I prefer genres including history, Wallace's book really made my heart want more and more, but listening to him being interviewed by Elaine Charles from the book report radio show he mentioned that yes, there is another book being worked might just take more than a year - which is longer than I care to wait - putting Stonefly on top of my list.