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The First Stone

Genre: Thriller. Quichotte Salman Rushdie.


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Stranger at Bay

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    After all, writing folders function as—among other things—a record of a student's writing achievement over time, and parents are encouraged to read their contents. When my students realized that their parents would likely see what they'd written, their desire to use profanity tended to dwindle. Those who continue to include it do so because they can defend its purpose. DON: I began the novel in and wrote about half of it, but then I got sidetracked by several other books. Once my agent sold it to HarperCollins in , it went through the editorial process, and it was nearly a year later by the time it appeared in print as you see it now.

    Is it possible to impose a restraining order upon someone when the person being protected wishes to be in contact with the person being restrained? DON: At 17, Leeza was still a minor, and parents have the legal right to make such decisions. More important, though, Leeza hadn't expressed to her mother a desire to see Reef. After all, he was the person who had shattered her body and her spirit. It wasn't the restraining order that kept Leeza from contacting him—it was the overwhelming sense of betrayal she felt at learning what Reef had done to her.

    Although his friendship had helped her cope with Ellen's death, his action had brought her months of physical agony, something she could never forget. DON: Titles are a funny thing. When I write short stories, their titles never appear until I've finished them. However, the title of my second novel, Stranger at Bay , did not come to me at all. My editor and my publisher offered several suggestions, and Stranger at Bay is actually a combination of two that they suggested.

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    Regarding the title of this novel, stones are significant because they were a source of comfort in Reef's disadvantaged childhood. His grandmother placed "the first stone" in his hand the day his grandfather pulled over to the roadside when Reef was carsick, telling him that the smooth-edged stone she found was a "sick-stone" that would keep him from throwing up. I used to do the same with my younger daughter, who frequently became carsick when she was years old.

    Focusing on that one thing often helped her forget her nausea. Later, when Reef began bringing them home to his grandmother, stones became a focus for communication. They spent hours together sorting them and talking about how some were like—and unlike—each other, and it was during these times that his grandmother would talk about Reef's mother.

    After Reef's grandmother died, stones offered another kind of solace as he used them to vent an anger that continued to build inside him during years of being shunted from one foster home to another. It was this anger that led him to throw the rock at Leeza's car, and it was this anger that led him to throw the rock at the greenhouse, shattering a panel that Frank Colville insisted he pay for and repair. The title appears again at the end of each of the last two chapters—Leeza hears the phrase at church in the minister's sermon, and the words remind her of the importance of forgiveness; and, in the novel's final sentences, Reef holds "the first stone" that he did not throw in anger.

    I like the fact that, at the end of the novel, a stone is once again a source of comfort for him. How do you respond to that? DON: I think it's actually kind of nice—a testament, in fact, to Atlantic Canadians—that this is even an issue.