Looking for the Klondike Stone

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

For many children, summer camp is a unique childhood experience—a glorious adventure that remains forever bright in memory. In LOOKING FOR THE KLONDIKE STONE, Elizabeth Arthur lovingly records her memories of five idyllic summers at Camp Wynakee in Vermont. How important those long-ago days were to Arthur then, and how much she treasures their memories now, is readily apparent from the vividness and detail of her recollections.

For the young Elizabeth, every place and every activity at Wynakee was imbued with symbolic importance: the nature shed, the bunkhouses, the swimming hole and water wheel, the barn and farmhouse, the Indian council fire, the crafts, the games, the hikes, and the picnics. Capping everything else was the Klondike Stone, a colossal “gold nugget” weighing several pounds. On Klondike Day, according to camp lore, the person who found the stone was destined for a life as fortune’s favorite, the recipient of the ultimate magical blessing that Wynakee could bestow.

The charm of this book—and perhaps its weakness—is how closely the writer has mingled her adult-self as narrator with her remembered-self as a child. It is not difficult to believe that Elizabeth Arthur was a sensitive and precocious child. Her adult memories of herself at that age, however, may have become a bit distorted with the passage of time: “I remember lying on that mountain, not far from the friendly sag of the Fire Tower, looking up at the stars as something set a match to them, and feeling, for just that evening, that there was not a single circumscription or flaw in the life that I had been given. I had never been so high above the unimpeachable earth, had never dreamed that the verdure of the hills could be so emerald, and had certainly never imagined that the world itself was a kiln, and that all things, including me, were fired in it.”

For many readers, the greatest pleasure of LOOKING FOR THE KLONDIKE STONE will be the opportunity Elizabeth Arthur gives them to recall for a moment the intense seriousness with which they all once embraced the most joyful moments of their childhood.