Review: Stone Junction by Jim Dodge

I started off really liking Jim Dodge’s Stone Junction; it began as an intriguing coming of age tale of a boy growing up around magicians, outlaws and anarchists. In between this was the mystery of a family tragedy. The characterisation of the boy was a little flat, but I considered him a tabula rasa, a blank slate befitting the themes of the book, upon which would be written the incantations of life. Sadly, that particular slate remained blank. There are some wonderful characters in the book, teachers and random encounters, but the most interesting and vivid are visited too briefly and rapidly dropped.

Furthermore, it is said that Dodge wrote half the book, ran out of steam, put it away for a long while and then started up again with fresh thoughts. Sadly, that’s the way it reads as well. Half way through, the protagonist leaves the mystery of his family tragedy to others to start on a quest for a mystical artefact. This quest then forms the backbone of the plot in the second half. Sadly, the slate is still blank.

By the end, the quest storyline is resolved with hand waving, the mystery is resolved with an anti-climax and it feels like the book never really got going.

I was really looking forward to Stone Junction, it was recommended to me most emphatically by a friend and the first couple of chapters had promise. Unfortunately, all that promise quickly evaporated and by the end I just wanted the book to be over. There is a chance that I’ve missed a symbolic layer of this book, which would have unlocked its secrets and allowed me to enjoy it in its entirety. But I spent too long wading through the mud to relish the idea of fishing around in it for gems.

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