Review

Stillwater: A Novel

by William F. Weld

Read an Excerpt



The genre of "coming of age" novels has been filled with gems and
duds, and I'm glad to say William Weld's latest, STILLWATER, falls
into the former category. Weld takes us back to 1938, to the Swift
River Valley of western Massachusetts. The lives of the folks
living in the five towns of the valley will be altered dramatically
in the name of progress, their homes and farms doomed to lie under
a vast expanse of water, due to a damming project designed to
create a massive reservoir. Historically, such public works
projects have always pitted those who promote the work against
those who question the necessity of it. And generally, the
promoters win the arguments while the questioners are
silenced.

STILLWATER is told through the eyes of a 15-year-old boy named
Jamieson Kooby during his last year in the valley. Jamieson lives
with his Grandmother, a strong willed independent thinker, on a
farm surrounded by nature's beauty. Weld's descriptions of
Jamieson's excursions through the flora and fauna of his world are
remarkable for their simplicity and poignancy. His ability to tie,
almost imperceptibly, emotions and scenery into a well crafted,
fully realized portrait of "real life" is nothing short of
masterful.

Jamieson introduces us to a group of friends and foes, all of whom
are alternately tangled up in the politics and the trivialities of
everyday life. There is Hannah, a young orphan who lives at the
Poor Farm, who possesses an ability to recall past lives and who
soon becomes Jamieson's closest companion. Much of Hannah's world
revolves around the emotion of dead lovers who still haunt the
earth. Her voice is one of wisdom bound up in a young girl soon to
become a woman. Hannah offers continuity to the tale and allows
Jamieson vibrant but silent visions of a world.

Hammy the Hobo, living with Walden-style deliberateness, is a hero
to Jamieson and his friends. He alone dares to "question" the good
of surrendering the town's land to the reservoir project during the
Governor's speech to the people. The price Hammy pays for
questioning the Governor lends the story a poignant climax.

   

As flooding day approaches, the reader can almost feel the water
flowing through the locks and a chapter of the characters' lives
coming to a close. Interestingly, with the loud rush of water comes
the silence of things lost, never to be regained. Upon flooding,
Jamieson becomes a man, moves on, and comes home to memories.

William Weld's STILLWATER is a masterpiece, a book with such scope
and depth that it draws immediate comparisons to Harper Lee's TO
KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and John Knowles's A SEPARATE PEACE. I would not
be at all surprised to see this title on school reading lists in
the near future. For now, I can only hope that we readers spread
the word about this wonderful coming-of-age story.

Reviewed by Tony Parker on January 23, 2011

Stillwater: A Novel
by William F. Weld

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743205987
  • ISBN-13: 9780743205986