Homer Hickam's first autobiography, ROCKET BOYS, not only scored as a best-selling novel, but was transformed into the award-winning movie, October Sky. Now we are being treated to SKY OF STONE, which takes us with Homer "Sonny" Hickam back to Coalwood, West Virginia in the summer after his freshman year at college. Homer's taciturn father is at a crossroads in his life. His wife has left him and is living in Myrtle Beach. Sonny, looking forward to a summer of basking in the sun, meeting girls and helping his mother fix up the beach house, is packed and ready to go when he is called to the dormitory phone.
"I had never received a telephone call during my entire time at VPI...I walked like a condemned man down the hall and crawled inside the booth. When I nervously answered, I heard Mom's voice. 'I was afraid you'd already started down here,' she said."
His hopes for a languid summer are shattered. Knowing that there is no arguing with Elsie Hickam, Sonny reluctantly returns to the depressed mining town to a father more remote and uncommunicative than ever. Sonny wrecks the family car shortly after he arrives and to pay off the repair bill, he goes to work in the mine as a rail-laying man --- one of the most arduous and dangerous jobs in the business. His father is so furious at him for joining the union that he refuses to pay for any further college. Sonny is confronted with the choice of quitting or spending the summer as a coal miner if his dream of becoming a NASA space engineer is to be fulfilled. In an act of defiance, he opts for the union. He moves out of the family home to a miner's rooming house and undergoes a summer of unexpected growth --- physically, mentally, and spiritually --- as he probes the dark Coalwood secret that lies at the root of his father's dilemma.
Hickam's self-effacing humor and tale-spinning genius pull us through a heartwarming novel that reads like a mystery but is laced with old fashioned American can-do and nostalgia. SKY OF STONE strikes at the touchstone of America's proud heritage of overcoming obstacles to reach a lofty goal. Just as the ROCKET BOYS of Coalwood sent their inventions roaring off the launching pad, SKY OF STONE will make your spirits soar in these troubling times.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on October 9, 2001