A Stone for Bread
by Miriam Herin
Livingston Press

"'The issue was never authorship, Rachel. The issue isn’t authorship at all.’ He turned and stared at her, his eyes bloodshot from the wine. ‘What it’s about is murder. And not just by the Nazis. I too was complicit.’"

There’s quite a mix of character and circumstance in this novel of mystery, history, and soul-searching: a seasoned, enigmatic poet whose heyday was two generations ago; a very pretty and engaging graduate student just starting out her life today; a shadowy Frenchman whose nearly century-old actions have long-lasting consequences. These three contrasting personalities set this very original tale in motion, but the plot grows from there into a dramatic, almost journalistic who-what-where-and-why saga that spans not only generations but also equally disparate scenarios. One scenario involves a quest to discover the true authorship of some famous concentration camp poems. Another is a quest to figure out how we decide who we are and what we need to do with our lives. Indeed, there may be several quests that are part of this story, but Herin weaves them together as a single seamless tale.

In some literary circles, it is thought that a book that tries to be too many things at once ends up being not much of anything at all. That’s certainly not the case with Herin’s second novel, because it happens to work splendidly on multiple levels. In terms of thematic exploration, it tackles such issues as who we really are, the circumstances that can change us, and the secrets we sometimes hold onto. In terms of genre, it is by turns a character study, a historical drama, and a contemporary mystery. And in tone, it is both a leisurely stroll and a suspenseful adventure. In short, this well-crafted, beautifully written novel does not merely try to be many things—it simply is many things, because that’s the kind of challenge inherent in the sweeping, multiple-time-period tale Herin sets out to weave. She does so both with eloquence and conviction.

Winner of the 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award Legacy Fiction Category

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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