The Blessing Stone
The Blessing Stone makes those sprawling intergenerational sagas and inscrutable epics seem like rank amateurs with the sheer scope of its coverage spanning over 100,000 years. Barbara Wood is an engaging writer, but her themes, played out in the history of a precious stone, are not. Her research is superb, some of her stories are fascinating, but The Blessing Stone is not always a gripping read, with the first half distinctly less exciting than the second. The book isn’t a romance (unless you want to call it, as I did to make myself chuckle in some of the more boring spots, Romancing The Stone), but is instead an epic charting the course of human knowledge through individual experience.
This collection of stories unfolds throughout the entire span of human history, and each entry in the book tells the story of a person who discovers something about him or herself with the insight gained from believing in the magical powers of a blue stone. The stone’s particular assistance depends on the person holding it; for one woman, it bestows faith, others strength of courage, faith, hope, passion and honor.
The individual stories range in quality, and the last two – Martinique in 1720 and the American West in 1848 – rise above the rest, both in the telling and In the twists. The interim segments cleverly tell how the stone gets from place to place, and a few of the stories, specifically Rome 64 C.E. and England 1022 C.E., relate directly to each other. One of the stories (Germany 1520 C.E.) started off well, but devolved into a mystical, magical tale that seemed out of place within this context. A few of the others had characters that did not seem special, so it was difficult to care about their problems and resulting epiphanies.
The meticulous details of all the stories reflect exhaustive research, and it is hard to imagine that one woman holds all this arcane knowledge in her head. Ms. Wood is never simplistic in relaying her specific theme either. Ultimately, though, her writing is not enough to overcome the problems in broadstroke characterization. Individual themes are not always revelatory for the reader, and due to its format, there is no big pay-off at the end – no HEA to hang your hat on.
That said, The Blessing Stone is a good read for someone who likes to learn about the past through social history, enjoys the loosely-connected novella format, and wants to read stories of faith and redemption without preaching. Just don’t pick it up expecting a comprehensive story and make certain you’re willing to suspend your disbelief every so often.