if your father treated you so horribly that you'd rather your mother
and sisters think you were dead than take even more one minute of the
abuse? Although only eleven years old and raised in an Amish community,
Joshua sees an opportunity and runs away from his Pennsylvania home, with
dreams of California filling his head.
Joshua urges his horse through the iron gate. Hoping to find his father's headstone, he dismounts at one slab not yet covered with lichen and reads the name. It's not Father's. He reads it again. Hand to his beard, he compresses his lips. The name is his own.—Stones in the Road by E. B. Moore (Penguin Random House / New American Library, 2015, p. 3)
He never imagined this welcome, or the chiseled inscription: Beloved Boy, 1872. The year he ran from Father and the farm.
- Setting: late 1800s, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the way west to California
- Circumstances: The book opens as twenty-one-year-old Joshua returns home for the first time in ten years after he headed west in the midst of a fire set after a tussle with his alcohol-fueled father. The story of his youth and journey are told from his point of view, while life on the family farm is told from his mother's.
- Characters: Joshua and his mother (Miriam), father, and siblings; members of the Amish community; many people Joshua meets on his travels.
- Genre: historical fiction; coming of age
- Themes: family, faith, culture clash, abuse, independence, survival
- Some early thoughts on the story: Joshua's journey has an Odyssey-like feel to it: he is both helped and hindered as he flounders in the world of the "English." His mother remains at home, the only one who still believes her son could be alive. Although Joshua was young when he left home, his Amish upbringing stays with him and informs his life on the road.
- Thoughts on the style: The story is told in alternating viewpoints: Joshua's and Miriam's. Each of them undergoes a transformation. For Miriam, it's assuming a position of power in her family, generally unheard of for an Amish woman. For Joshua, it's finding himself in the outside world. Moore doesn't romanticize either world--English or Amish--showing the good and the bad as well as the difficulties of surviving in the late nineteenth century, whether on a farm or on the Overland Trail west. The period details reveal the novel's well-researched foundation, and the plot is well balanced in terms of inner contemplation, action, faith, and sin.
- Something else to know: The book is based loosely on the story of the author's own grandfather, a member of the Old Order Amish, who ran away from home, returning to his family about ten years later. Moore herself was raised Quaker.