Saturday, May 26, 2012

Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald

It begins with a free and joyful act – but from then on, Michael finds it impossible event o remember what it felt like to be free and joyful. When he fires his new rifle into the air on his seventeenth birthday, he never imagines that the bullet will end up killing someone. But a mile away, a man is killed by that bullet as he innocently repairs his roof. And Michael keeps desperately silent while he watches his world crumble.
Meanwhile Jenna, the dead man’s daughter, copes with desperation of her own. Through her grief, she tries to understand why she no longer feels comfortable with her boyfriend and why a near stranger named Michael keeps appearing in her dreams.

While the book gets off to a pretty slow start, I ended up enjoying it. My expectations may have been a little too high, but once I got about half way through breezed through the second half. In the prologue we find out that Michael’s innocent act of firing his new rifle in the air ends up killing husband and father, Charlie Ward, while he works on his roof about a mile away. After Michael and his best friend Joe, who was with him when he shot the rifle, find out that the bullet took someone’s life, Michael goes into panic mode and Joe tries to convince Michael everything will be just fine. Michael ends up digging a hole in his backyard, placing the rifle in a PVC pipe, and burying it to hide any evidence. His whole life has been changed, and so has Michael; he’s distant, he avoids his family and his girlfriend, and he becomes increasingly more and more paranoid. With the police narrowing down the spot where the gun was fired to a four block radius and begin going door-to-door to question residents and inspect all firearms, Michael is faced with a huge decision. Does he come clean and clear his conscience but potentially ruin the rest of his life, or does he keep quiet and hope this whole nightmare blows over? Can he swallow the stone and move on, or will it get caught in his throat and cut off his air supply?

I actually really liked this book, although getting through the beginning was a little rough. I was so torn on my feelings for Michael; I felt so terrible for him because he never could have imagined that his bullet would kill someone, but I was also mad at him for being deceitful and trying to cover up what he did. I think the part that changed my opinion of him for good was when he started sitting on the church steps across from Jenna’s house every single night. He had so much remorse, but just couldn’t accept the fact that turning himself in would change his whole life. Instead of going to college, he could be going to prison. I was continually hoping that he would do the right thing, but I really did feel for him. I can’t even imagine being in that kind of situation.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the relationship he formed with Amy, a girl who has a reputation for getting around. I absolutely loved her character, and my heart ached for her a little bit. She was a girl who was misunderstood and judged harshly on her actions before anyone really got a chance to know her. One of my favorite lines of the book was when Michael stood up for Amy to his girlfriend Darcy: “Amy Ruggerio is one of the most decent human beings I know. She’s been a good friend to me. A friend, period. You can believe whatever the hell you want. But nobody calls a friend of mine – and friend of mine – a pig.” She really was a great person, and what Darcy did to her broke my heart a little bit. After her and Michael started hanging out, I was really hoping they would end up together!

Overall, it was a touching story. I gave it 3 stars just because I wasn’t crazy about the first 40-50 or so pages. The relationship between the characters is moving, and the maturity transformation from Michael was admirable. I do wish we would have learned more about the repercussions of Michael’s final decision, and see if his relationship with Amy progressed at all. Ohhh, I really hope it did! This is a good book for anyone from teenagers to grown adults. You’ll fall in love with these characters; I know I did.  

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