First the fingertips and then the hand. Choose your angle wisely, girl; there’s no forgiveness in bone. Rotate the shoulder, let the head and hips follow … there.
The Mothers’ words echoed in Jena’s mind as she eased into the crevice, flattening herself against the rock. When she was through, she paused, waiting for the next girl. They were deep now, in the heart of the mountain. Around her, the earth pressed so tightly it was hard to tell where her body ended and the stone began.
Every girls dreams of being part of the line, the seven young girls chosen to crawl deep into the mountain to collect the precious mica which will ensure the village’s survival. Jena is the leader fo the line, and believes passionately in all the Mothers tell her. She doesn’t question, doesn’t doubt. Until a baby is born early, a girl dies and a single, impossible stone is found. These three seemingly separate incidents make Jena question all that she has believed, and bring back memories of losing her parents. COuld it be that all she has believed is wrong?
A Single Stone is a disarming yet beautiful novel set in a dystopian world. Jena’s village has been cut off from the outside world by a massive rockfall following an unnamed disaster which has also affected the world beyond their valley. With no way out, and no help from outside, the villagers have adapted to their isolation and to the vagaries of cold and lack of resources through evolving a society where everything revolves around the need for girls to collect the mica which can generate heat through cold winters. Girls, especially fine boned girls, are precious. Men are to blame for the rockfall, and so lesser, and boy children undesirable, except to ensure the conception of more girls.
Jena is a strong lead character, who comes to question her own determination to do the work she was raised to do. McKinlay’s writing is superb: thoughtful, deliberate and breathtaking. Readers will feel squeezed by the mountain, shocked along with Jena at the discoveries she makes, and warmed by the hope of the resolution.
A Single Stone, by Meg McKinlay
Walker Books, 2015
Available from good bookstores and online.