17 March 2015

Review #167: The Book of Stone by Jonathan Papernick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Jewish people and their fate are the living witness for the absence of redemption. This, one could say, is the meaning of the chosen people; the Jews are chosen to prove the absence of redemption.”
---- Leo Strauss, a German-American philosopher and philologist of ancient Greek text

Jonathan Papernick, a Canadian author, penned his debut novel called, The Book of Stone after so many successful short stories, that revolves around a man whose fate drastically changes after his father's death leading to religious as well as social extremism not only in his country but also within himself.


A searing psychological thriller set in pre-9/11 Brooklyn in which a family’s dark history and an estranged son’s attempt to find meaning and purpose converge.

Matthew Stone has inherited a troubling legacy: a gangster grandfather and a distant father—who is also a disgraced judge. After his father’s death, Matthew is a young man alone. He turns to his father’s beloved books for comfort, perceiving within them guidance that leads him to connect with a group of religious extremists. As Matthew immerses himself in this unfamiliar world, the FBI seeks his assistance to foil the group’s violent plot. Caught between these powerful forces, haunted by losses past and present, and desperate for redemption, Matthew charts a course of increasing peril—for himself and for everyone around him.

Jonathan Papernick is a master-story-teller and that is quite evident from his novel, The Book of Stone that captures the story of a young man with no university degree or any bigger objective in his life. He simply had a top class pedigree- grandfather being a notorious gangster, and father being a famous judge. Matthew was depended on his father completely given the reason his mother deserted him when he was a young boy. But now his father is dead, Matthew seems like he lost his mind. Feeling clueless, lost in his father's extraordinary books from Shakespeare to Churchill to Dante, Matthew simply wanted one thing- to make something out of his sorry self after his father's death who wanted him to be famous and highly knowledge like him. Matthew's father's death opens a new world to him- the existence and the vulnerability of Jews in America. His life becomes a tornado when he joins his father's mission to eradicate the misery of all the Jews. It not only makes him fall in love one more time, but also gives him hope that he could finally make something out of himself. What Matthew didn't know that his father's so-called mission brings out the complex religious extremism ideas thus leading to terrorist acts. Read the book to see how Matthew's sad life engulfs him into danger, terrorism, love and hope.

Matthew Stone- this name will haunt you even after the end of the book. To be honest, I never read about such a broken up, mentally lost and depressed character, who even after so many failures tries to get back on his feet just to make himself valuable in front of his father's eyes. As they say, too much expectations can be fatal, similarly, Judge Stone expected more out of Matthew- who was a lost child from a very early age, which is mainly due to his mother's disappearance and his father's ignorance, and Matthew tried to live up to his father's expectations, thus throwing him on a dangerous path of terrorism and religious extremism.

The storytelling is brilliant and the plot evolves really slow, like in the beginning, I was really bored with Matthew's life being falling apart, and I silently started curing the author for putting Matthew- a lost soul- into so much sorrow and grief. But once he made up his mind to change the face of Jews in the world and give justice to the Jews by punishing the Arabs and the Islams, the story took a big and interesting turn, that kept us turning the pages till the very end. The plot simply captivated me which is very dark filled with complex Jewish beliefs and history of Jewish massacre from all over the world. The mystery part was enthralling as well as intriguing.Moreover, it was a complete roller coaster ride filled with thrills and some adrenaline rushing moments and actions.

Some will find that Matthew is trying to find himself by joining his father's footsteps, but I think Matthew is already lost and he didn't require to search himself, all he tried to do was to make something out of himself, so that he doesn't remain a failure in his dead father's eyes. Matthew's characterization is done brilliantly, skillfully and strikingly. His pain and sorrow depicted by the author is so raw that you can feel it's bitterness in your mind. There is also a bit of sexual overtone layered in the plot when Matthew falls for a Jewish girl. Matthew's relationship with himself can be really difficult for some to contemplate since his mind doesn't work like a normal human being. Overall, it's an engrossing book that not only follows the story of a lost soul but how extreme religious beliefs can lead to terrorism in the world.

Verdict: A must read book that not only provokes your mind to think but also an eye-opener about Jewish beliefs and radicalism.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Jonathan Papernick and his publicist for providing me with an ARC of the book, for an honest review. 

Author Info:

Jonathan Papernick's first collection of short stories The Ascent of Eli Israel was published by Arcade Publishing in 2002 and received a full-page review in the New York Times and a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

His second collection of short stories There is No Other was published by Exile Editions in the spring of 2010. Author Dara Horn wrote about There is No Other, "Every single story here delivers a knock-out punch that will leave you reeling long after you've put it down -- and revising your thinking on what life and love really mean."

His work has appeared in Night Train, Exile: The Literary Quarterly, Nerve, Folio, Failbetter, The Drum, Confrontation, Blunderbuss, The Reading Room and Post Road as well as numerous anthologies.

He is currently at work on his third collection of stories Gallery of the Disappeared Men and is working secretly on a couple of novels. In 2013 he released a limited-edition mini-collection of erotic stories entitled XYXX.

His novel The Book of Stone will be published by Fig Tree Books in 2015. He is Senior Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College in Boston. 

Visit him here


  1. Although I don't really like the cover of this book it seems like an awful lot is going on here! It seems like Matthew has so many things going wrong and messing up his life, I can't even think of what the outcome of this novel might be. I do love a good thriller though, so I have definitely added it to my TBR!

  2. The outcome is mind blowing! Yeah, surely you must read this one, if possible! :-) Thanks for your lovely comment!


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