Stones in the Road. E. B. Moore. Penguin Group (USA). October 2015. 384 pp. ISBN#: 9780451469991.
A young Amish man, Joshua, lives with his family in 1867 Pennsylvania. His father is a well-respected Deacon in the Amish community, but his father’s hatred comes out clearly when he has been drinking, a frequent evening activity that proves to be life-threatening for Joshua. On one similar night, his father drags Joshua to a barn and sets about to kill him, not just beat him; but accidental movements occur and a fire is set that all but destroys the barn and leaves the father, Abraham, a physically and mentally scarred man. He’s a broken man who cannot utter what he was really trying to do that night.
Joshua runs away a second time. He had been away once and had enough of life with “the English” that he wanted no more. Now, however, he has no choice. He has suffered burns himself in the fire and receives merciful treatment from unexpected characters. His mother, Miriam, refuses to believe he died in the fire and searches the lands around their farm for days and days. She’s a complex character who loves Abraham for the past moments of tenderness they have shared but who also knows his uglier side. The stance she now takes with this wounded man and now being forced to manage their farm is evidence of the formidably strong and enduring woman she is.
This then is the tale of these three main characters and those with whom they interact in their journey until mother and son might be reunited. It’s also a marvelous look into post-Civil War life from Pennsylvania all the way to Colorado and beyond. The characters are gritty survivors of those who journey and live in western lands, those who prefer to be friendly and supportive because they believe in the love that binds American lives and those who would hurt and kill in a moment because of fear and anger at the sacrifices mandatory for those who would tame the difficult land and work for prosperity.
Stones in the Road is fine historical fiction about western life as well as a novel that gently depicts the life of Plains Amish people as well as their beliefs. Very nicely done, E. B. Moore! A notable, worthy follow-up to Moore’s facinating previous novel, An Unseemly Wife.