Book Review: Throwing Stones
I've just had the pleasure of reading a lovely book by Robin Reardon. Throwing Stones is, more than anything, a coming-of-age story about a young man who, like many of us these days, finds it difficult to truly be himself in a society that judges us for everything from our sexual orientation to our belief systems. The main character, Jesse Bryce, must contend against not just a family but a whole town that finds his homosexuality baffling and repellent. I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who know just how that feels, and that's a sad thing. But Jesse perseveres, only to discover that he's drawn to another controversial subject: Paganism. On the outskirts of his tiny, myopic home town lives a neighborhood full of Pagans - the Village, as the townspeople call the place. Within the Village Jesse finds acceptance of who he really is, his own truth, while also battling the Pagans' concern over the dangers they're subjected to by the townspeople's prejudice.
I found Ms. Reardon's treatment of this constellation of difficult subjects to be thoughtful and mostly realistic. I did have a little trouble accepting the reality of a Pagan community full of people who are all vegetarian, totally truthful all the time, and totally cooperative and peaceful. Knowing what I do after being immersed in the real-world Pagan community for 25 years, I found that to be something of a utopian vision, perhaps something to strive for, but not entirely realistic.
Unfortunately, I did find the depiction of the 'townies' with their vandalism and attacks on the local Pagans to be sadly realistic. Having witnessed that sort of behavior myself, I know it does actually happen. But the story makes it clear that, like in real life, it's mostly a few really bad eggs who do the worst damage. And the rest of the people can often be reached through gentle education and patience, which Jesse inspires among not just his family but the whole community. All this, while he's struggling to figure out who he really is. And who he really is - well, that turns out to be someone a lot stronger and deeper than he thought he was.
NOTE: This book is classified as paranormal romance. If you pick it up looking for the usual fantasy/sci-fi content found in the paranormal romance category, you're not going to find that here. The Pagans in this novel are not fantasy witches but real people. I don't know why the book is classified this way, and given a choice, I'd change the classification. Among other things, calling Paganism 'paranormal' borders on offensive to those of us who are practicing Pagans.