(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The forces in what a critic called "an America gone haywire" unraveling the social fabric in Stone's books have severely damaged the characters but Stone intends to do much more than just record their distress. Responding to the charge that his bleak outlook is too pessimistic, Stone contends while "I deal with much that's negative and gruesome—I don't write to dispirit people." At the heart of his work is an artistic credo that fits into the tradition of the writers Stone admires (Dickens; Dos Passos; Fitzgerald). Envisioning a readership somewhat akin to the characters themselves, Stone proclaims: "I write to give them courage, to make them confront things as they are in a more courageous way." Only Mary Urquhart in "Miserere" has any direct contact with some form of organized religion, but Stone's universe includes, even insists, on the presence of God in some form. However, as a character remarks in his novel A Flag For Sunrise (1981), "There's always a place for God— there's some question as to whether he's in it." Stone explains this position by saying "I feel a very deep connection to the existentialist tradition of God as an absence—-not a meaningless void, but a negative presence we live in terms of." The first two stories of Bear and His Daughter set the parameters of this position. The title "Miserere" is taken from the well-known prayer, "the prayer sung over and over since the beginning of music itself," which intones: Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere nobis. It is a fervent expression of the soul's need for God's mercy, and in that story, at least for Urquhart, an expression of the possibilities of that prayer being answered. The tide,...

(The entire section is 691 words.)