The Stone Diaries is the story of the life of Daisy Goodwill Hoad Flett. The novel is divided into ten chapters, beginning with “Birth, 1905” and ending with “Death.” A fictional biography of a Canadian American woman, the novel spans her childhood, marriages, children, work, decline, and death.
Narrated by several different voices, but most often by Daisy herself, the novel weaves a complex pattern of stories that belie the chronological layout of the book. The description of Daisy’s own birth, for example, is told by Daisy in the first person. The narration begins in Tyndall, Manitoba, with Daisy’s mother, Mercy Stone Goodwill, making dinner on a hot summer day; one hour later, the mother has died giving birth. Interwoven into this chapter are the courtship stories of Mercy and Cuyler, freighted with emotions that could never have been described to the child by her father and revealing a first mystery: Mercy had not hidden her pregnancy from her husband but had simply been unaware of it herself.
Daisy is cared for by her parents’ neighbor, Clarentine Flett, who takes the infant child with her when she leaves her husband and goes to Winnipeg to live with her son, a college professor. The narrative in this chapter includes description of Cuyler’s building the stone tower on the grave of Mercy, and letters from Barker and Clarentine Flett advance the plot. Daisy’s character develops through her response to illness, a response that includes her discovery of an “absence inside herself,” a discovery that she lacked “the kernel of authenticity.”
Her marriage in 1927 leads to a defining moment for Daisy: her husband’s fall from a window while they are on their honeymoon in France, dramatically ending their unconsummated marriage and leaving Daisy to...
(The entire section is 743 words.)