Renate Dorrestein is that rare storyteller who dazzles critics and captivates readers.
Provocative, stylish, and emotionally resonant, A Heart of Stone (her first book to be translated into English) is certain to cause a sensation on the international scene and Viking is proud to introduce her to the American public. This beautifully woven masterpiece, spare yet richly told, plumbs the undercurrents of family life and tragedy in a startling and wise story of love, fate, and survival.
Ellen Van Bemmel lives with her parents, who run an American news-clipping service, and her three siblings in an old Dutch house in a suburb of Amsterdam. Ellen's idyllic childhood is suffused with Americana, both the frivolous fringes like potato chips and Coca-Cola as well as milestones like Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, until family disaster strikes on her twelfth birthday. From that moment on her world begins to unravel.
Years later, Ellen plunges us into the past as she leafs through a faded photo album and confronts the literal and figurative ghosts of her childhood. Seamlessly alternating the past and present, taut with Hitchcockian tension and warmed by a redemptive love story, A Heart of Stone tells a darkly humorous, yet ultimately compassionate tale.
College Years, Autumn 1956 or 1957
There were already four of us by the time Ida arrived, on an unusually cold summer's night. Thanks to a nearly full moon, it was still so bright out at two a.m. that we could count the freckles on each other's noses. We had vowed not to go to sleep until we'd heard the new baby's first cry. We had taken chips and Cokes up to our attic bedroom and had put on our warmest flannel pajamas.
I had made myself a comfy nest on Kester's bed with a stack of pillows. To kill time, he and I were reading a Batman comic book together. He would give me a soft poke in the ribs when it was time to turn the page. Our sister Billie, at her usual post in front of the mirror by the clothes closet, was engrossed in snipping off the split ends of her long black hair with nail scissors. And Carlos was on his feet in his crib crooning with excitement, groggy with sleep, his tummy bulging over his drooping diaper. We called him Carlos because as ...
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