A Stone for Bread
by Miriam Herin
Livingstone Press

"He hardly felt the blows that landed on him, the fists from behind, the stone that struck his cheek. Nothing mattered, only the fight and his own fierce will."

For Rachel, the initial meeting with Henry Beam starts out as a favor for a friend who has been assigned to interview the reclusive poet and needs someone like Rachel who understands literature to come along and help break the ice. A secondary reason is that the literary mystery surrounding Beam due to his publication of a controversial book of poetry sounds like a bit of R & R from her studies. But what begins as a bit of a lark becomes something else entirely as she gets to know the man and is drawn into his story. The experience will leave her irrevocably changed.

In her extremely well-written novel, the author tells a tale of talent and promise—positive traits shared by multiple characters that, unfortunately, fall victim to suffering, deception, and loss. Henry, for example, emerges from childhood poverty and a dysfunctional family solely on his own academic merits. He publishes a volume of poetry, is awarded a chance to study in Paris, and earns a teaching position at Duke University. Yet the furor surrounding a book of poems he says were actually given to him by a concentration camp survivor named René scuttles his career and causes him to retreat from society. As for René, he is also a young man with a quick mind and a promising future, but misunderstanding and betrayal take his life in a very different and painful direction. But it is the charismatic yet flawed Renard who by the end of the book is revealed to possibly be the most tragic of the three.

Herin's character development is practically flawless, and her deft juggling of several points of view comes off smoothly. Brimming with literary quality, this excellent and moving book should not be missed.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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