Cover image for Stone garden
Stone garden
Moynahan, Molly.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, [2003]

Physical Description:
293 pages ; 24 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.8 11.0 86146.
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A New York Times Notable Book

"A wonderful and wise novel, a story told with unflinching courage and honesty, and with keen insight into the most universal of all conditions, the struggle of the human heart." -- Ken Wells, author of Meely LeBauve

"Lyrical and honest....Moynahan has created a well-written story dealing with loss and coming of age reminiscent of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones." -- Library Journal

A smart young woman making her way through the privileged terrain of northeastern prep-school land, Alice McGuire is certain of her world and her future -- until the summer her best friend and soul mate, Matthew Swan, vanishes on a trip to Mexico. Stunned, Alice and the rest of the close-knit town that adored Matthew search for answers. For Alice, the journey of heartbreak leads from everything that is familiar to forbidden places and forgotten people who will teach her about kindness and forgiveness: lessons that will open her to new possibilities and unexpected hope.

Vividly wrought, deeply resonant, and told in a remarkable voice that sparkles with wit and wisdom, Stone Garden is a splendid triumph from an accomplished writer.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Moynahan's moving novel examines grief and the loss of innocence through the eyes of Alice, who has lost her best friend and soul mate, Matthew. Matthew went off to Mexico, intending to break up with his needy girlfriend and come back home to be with Alice. But he never returned, and a year later, his bones are discovered in a mass grave. Alice, a senior in high school, has been feeling the loss, the absence of Matthew, every day since he went missing. She decides her senior project is going to be teaching a class at the local prison. There, she finds a small class full of angry but loyal men, including Frank, a man who murdered the baby-sitter of Sigrid, a girl Alice has recently befriended. Alice doesn't know how to tell Sigrid she's been teaching Frank, especially as the murder of her baby-sitter haunts Sigrid much the same way Matthew's murder haunts Alice. Moynahan has a gift for capturing the youthful voice of her narrator, and she tells her story with evocative, beautiful prose. --Kristine Huntley Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rich-kid glamour mixes uneasily with tragedy in this well-intentioned but faintly smug second novel by Moynahan (Parting Is All We Know of Heaven). Alice McGuire's picture-perfect world crumbles after the bones of her missing best friend, Matthew Swan, are discovered in a shallow grave in Mexico. Devastated, the Millstone Country Day senior struggles with her romantic dreams of what might have been and the impact of her devastating loss-"I could feel Matt's dying in every inch of me, skimming across the surface of my skin, soaking into my pores when I stood under the shower.... Grief is fifty times harder than AP Calculus." For a while, the self-absorbed Alice has trouble empathizing with others mourning the well-liked student, including the frankly lesbian Ms. Hardwood, a perceptive teacher; Catherine, Matt's recovering alcoholic mom, who once had a fling with Alice's dad; Matt's eccentric sisters (one is perpetually stoned, not unlike Hallie, the heroin addict Matt went to Mexico with); Julia, Alice's overachieving Martha Stewart-type mother; and the lonely Sigrid, Alice's talented friend who composes an opera inspired by the long-ago murder of her beloved babysitter. Alice's salvation is her senior project participation in Literacy Behind Bars, a prison creative writing program, where Frank, the man who killed Sigrid's babysitter, is one of her "students." Frank and the other inmates adore Alice, and they spill their guts in perceptive prose, teaching Alice, Sigrid and their Millstone classmates about the redemptive power of forgiveness. Moynahan's smooth, playful prose is engaging, but her characters' emotional turmoil has a glib, rehearsed quality. As Alice puts it early on, "We were spoiled rotten and didn't have a clue." Despite all that follows, the feel-good ending underscores the reader's sense that little has changed. 4-city author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Senior year is tough enough without having to deal with the death of your best friend since kindergarten. That is the situation Alice finds herself in as she learns that Matthew Swan-her soul mate, her friend, her would-be lover, and her partner for life-has been murdered in Mexico. He was just going for a quick vacation with another girl, trying to help her through her addictions. That was the kind of guy Matthew was-always helping others. He helped his mother through her alcoholism and divorce; he was there for his sisters as they stumbled through eating disorders and drugs; he helped the kids at school. He was a "golden child" loved and respected by many. Alice has to cope with this loss, to figure out how to graduate and continue her life without the boy she thought would be there by her side. The seniors have to do a project to graduate from Millstone Country Day, and Alice decides to join the literacy project at the local prison. By working with the convicts, she hopes to understand how someone can take the life of another human being and thus heal at least enough to go on. A lyrical and honest look at teens today, this novel is appealing to adults as well as young adults. Moynahan has created a well-written story dealing with loss and coming of age reminiscent of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Stone Garden A Novel Chapter One The poets had come before. We listened to their poems politely, wondering how it must seem to them, being bused out of prison to visit a bunch of high school students to tell them about poetry. Except it wasn't like that. You never heard any of these guys discussing nuance or meter or any of those terms our English teachers try to make us remember even though they're boring and useless. The prisoners never talked about poetry at all. They talked about prison. They talked about how it felt once you heard all the doors locking behind you, how it no longer mattered who you were or what you'd done or whether your lawyer was some big shot. They said fuck. They said shit and asshole and butt-fucked . It was like all the rules were suspended when the poets came. Our headmaster, Duncan Farley, stood at the side of the stage and smiled. Smiled and smiled in his white duck pants, brown deck shoes, and paisley bow ties. His face was the same face he had when the little boys from the American Boys Choir came at Christmas and sang "Ave Maria," their voices so high and sweet they made your teeth hurt. He scanned the auditorium searching for kids who weren't paying attention. As soon as he caught their eyes he'd gesture toward the poets and wink. Duncan Farley was a major winker. The poets said stuff like "Listen, you spoiled motherfuckers -- don't do anything stupid. You'll end up like us -- locked up, fucked up, somebody's bitch with nothin'to look forward to but your momma comin' to visit and you sittin' there crying till you can't take it anymore and you cut your throat." They paced back and forth like the fake wrestlers on the WWF, trying to convince us we were about to lose everything. But kids like us didn't end up in jail. There was rehab, loony bins, and special schools for anyone who might get violent. We were tutored, braced, immunized, counseled, and medicated. Our counselors would write notes for us describing our symptoms in the most glowing terms, convincing everyone that our lack of direction and respect for authority and our general laziness were the result of adolescent angst and unrecognized brilliance. If we performed poorly on standardized tests, special academic support was just a phone call away. Many of my friends had personal trainers and their own private therapists. We took SAT prep classes, we consulted nutritionists, we gave ourselves Myers-Briggs personality quizzes and told our teachers the reason we couldn't meet deadlines was that we were wired in a unique way. The stuff the prisoners told us didn't register. We were spoiled rotten and didn't have a clue. And then they read their poems. Poems about sunsets, rainy days, and kittens. Bad poems our teachers would have marked up with "cliché," "mixed metaphor," "stale image," "???." Really corny rhymes about their mothers. But mainly it was food. Endless stanzas about food: mangoes, grapes, fatback, steak, peas, corn, cucumbers, lemons, spaghetti, ham, apple pie, turkey. There weren't even metaphors in these poems, just point-blank descriptions of favorite meals. They could have published a cookbook. Some of the poets seemed proud of how they ended up in jail. One guy read a poem about cutting someone's throat, and then he looked up at us and said: "I did that." Since I'd started high school, I had seen these poets five times. Christmas vacation was over and the poets were back. Some of the parents decided the poets were a bad thing. A petition to stop their program was circulated that had the following statement attached: Prison poets would be a wonderful asset to a nonprivate, less selective institution than Millstone Country Day. The life experiences these individuals describe, while inspiring, are irrelevant to the experiences of MCD's population. The school would be far better served by a series of lectures given by CEOs, successful entrepreneurs, and famous artists, all of whom exist in the current alumni pool. My mother found the petition hilarious. "What about Leopold and Loeb?" she asked my father. "What about Graham Steadforth's son being arrested for running a gambling and prostitution club? And Lizzie Macklin's daughter who sold drugs?" My father looked over his bifocals and frowned. "You can't argue that students from Millstone frequently end up in the slammer." My mother looked disgusted. "Of course they don't," she said. "Their parents hire famous criminal lawyers to dispute speeding tickets and pay off judges. It's black and Hispanic children that end up doing time." This was their normal routine. Mom was "down with the people" and Dad pretended to be a snob. "Nevertheless," my father said, removing his glasses slowly. "While Leopold and Loeb introduced the concept of Ivy League psychopaths, most senseless murders are committed by southern drifters. Mainly men in their twenties who hail from Texas." Sometimes I wonder whether people realize how stupid their habits are. Take the glasses thing. My father had twenty different ways to take them off. "And live in trailer parks," I added. "And have three names," my father said, winking at me. "Joe Bob Billy." "Danny Lou Ray," I shouted. "Bobby Will Paul." "Tammy Sue Louise," Mom said. "They can be girls, too." She leaned over to push my bangs off my forehead, staring at that part of me as if it contained the answer to world peace. "What?" I asked. "Nothing," she said, sighing. "You have such a wonderful forehead." This was her habit. Forehead worshiping. The petition didn't work and the poets kept coming. Matthew Swan was still missing. The police at the Texas border were no longer searching for him, and the private detective told the Swans to give up ... Stone Garden A Novel . Copyright © by Molly Moynahan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Stone Garden: A Novel by Molly Moynahan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.