A university maintenance worker and his wife decide to give birth to their anencephalic baby and to accept all the consequences that will follow. During summer vacation, a journalism student trysts with his girlfriend at her suspicious father’s house and soon witnesses the ultimate in paternal vengeance. A schoolboy faces peer violence while his mother struggles with cancer, each relying upon a hopelessly misplaced faith. In The Stone Child, Gary Fincke presents characters at turning points, where the effects of their decisions will ripple throughout the rest of their lives.
“Clean Shaven” depicts the last family vacation of a couple with two nearly grown children; in a few pivotal days, Reynolds, the father, struggles with, accepts, then embraces, his comradeship with his roguish, college-expelled son. In “Natural Borders,” the way a small-town sheriff handles the marital problems of a pair of eccentrics leads to a conflagration that will haunt him forever.
The eleven stories in The Stone Child are about families of varying kinds, what binds them, and what threatens to tear them apart. Under pressure, the characters strive to maintain whatever connections they have established with one another. In important ways, all of these stories, even those with exclusively adult characters, are coming-of-age tales, the characters arriving at those points in their lives when what they do and say will mark significant passages.
Fincke brings great humanity to his characters and displays a sharp and wry sense of humor; his sense of place is strong, his stories richly textured, and his prose a joy to read. Primarily meditating on the viewpoints of male characters, Fincke gives us stories with beginnings that pull us right in and endings that won’t let us leave the world of the story until long after we have finished reading.