Friday, February 13, 2009

Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books

Patti Abbott has a wonderful thing she does at her blog, pattinase, every Friday. Its called Friday's Forgotten Books.

Here's my entry for Patti's Friday's Forgotten Books today.

My all time very favorite book ever is a forgotten book that keeps coming back to life like the Phoenix. Published originally in 1966, reissued in the 80s,and about to be reissued again by The Chicago Review Press. But. It isn't really a forgotten book. At least, not by anyone who ever read it. Its one ofthose books that once read, will become a book you'll push on all your friends and insist they read. And one reading is never enough. I can't even begin to guess or remember how many times I've read it. Or how many copies I've bought and given as gifts. FIVE SMOOTH STONES was written by Ann Fairbairn. The basic plot is a simple story of a young black child, David Champlin, being raised by his grandparents in New Orleans in the 60s. Going on to college with the help of an extraordinary man who befriends David’s grandfather, and then David himself. And finally, belatedly joining the civil rights movement. The premise sounds pat, over-done, formulaic, and sappy. However this book is anything but simple or formulaic or any of those other things. This is an exquisitely written, powerful story about love, honor, relationships and the willingness to stand up for beliefs. The relationship between the elderly grandparents and the young boy is one of the most touching story lines ever written. While David is a memorable character, his grandfather is even more memorable. An indelible character who will wrap himself around your heart and once there, will live there forever. As David's story progresses, we meet a host of some of the most enduring characters found in literature. Friendships are formed and forged that \will last a lifetime. We meet people who live honest, good lives with high moral standards, never faltering in their beliefs, or in their willingness to fight for those beliefs, or in their deep abiding love and trust in one another, during one of the most turbulent, heart breaking periods of American history. And topping it all off is a love story that will break your heart, and then have it soaring to the heavens. David Champlin and Sara Kent's story will never leave you. I dislike using the word "powerful" while describing a book, 'cause I think its overused and therefore somewhat lacking as a true descriptor, but I can't seem to come up with a word that works any better or even as well, so powerful it is. I'm going to do something a little different here, and refer everyone reading this to the reviews of FIVE SMOOTH STONES on There are, as of this writing, 91 reviews. 85 of which were given Five Stars. They've been written over a time span of ten years, and most of the people doing the reviews were people who did something I myself have done for years - seek this book out in any form available to buy to give to someone they care about. It was a groundbreaking novel in 1966, but one which, I believe, has stood the test of time, and done so quite elegantly.

Ann Fairbairn, whose real name was Dorothy Tait, was born in Cambridge, MA and attended the Leland Powers School in Boston. She worked in newspapers, television and radio and as publicity director for music groups. "Five SmoothStones" (1966), a Literary Guild selection in 1967, won her an enthusiastic following in the United States and abroad. She also wrote "That Man Cartwright"(1970), "Call Him George" (under the pseudonym Jay Allison Stuart in 1960), a biography about New Orleans jazz clarinetist George Lewis, and was in the process of writing a third novel at the time of her death. Fairbairn died apparently of a heart attack at age 70 in February 1972 (from the Boston Globe11/14/1994). Not much information can be found about this amazing woman who's life was threatened after writing FIVE SMOOTH STONES under a pseudonym. Oh my, how I wish she had lived long enough to have finished that third novel, and a fourth, and maybe even a fifth. I think she would have, over time, joined the ranks of great writers.


Anonymous said...

I'm writing this one down, so I'll remember it, Kaye. Something that powerful (and, yes, that's the only word I can think of to describe the effect) to have resonated with you all these years is definitely something I want to read. Thanks for the tip and Happy Valentine's Day!

Kessa said...

I added it to my wishlist at Amazon. Hope it comes out in Kindle format too- sounds like a wonderful story. The story that sticks with me the most is "Moonheart" by Charles de Lint.
It is a tale that speaks to the way things of the past affect the things of today and how we must live with an awareness of what brought us to this place.
An 'urban fantasy' published in 1984 - before the term was widely used - one of the more memorable characters is Tamson House. A mix of celtic and Native American myths, the story is definitely worth exploring.
Thanks for sharing your memory - and rekindling mine.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hey there! Okeey doke - I'll expect an update on FIVE SMOOTH STONES from both of you once you've read it!

Kessa - Thank you for your suggestion about MOONHEART. Its one I've not heard of, but it sounds wonderful! Like Deborah says, if it has stuck with you for this long, there's got to be something quite special about it. I'm going to to read more. Right now!

Anonymous said...

OH, its a powerful book. I read it back in the early 70s and have never forgotten it and have reread it several times. Thinks for bringing it back to my mind. I'll have to go dig it out and reread it this year.