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The Book of Stone
Cover of The Book of Stone
The Book of Stone
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

The Book of Stone examines the evolution of the terrorist mentality and the complexities of religious extremism, as well as how easily a vulnerable mind can be exploited for dark purposes.
Matthew Stone has inherited a troubling legacy: a gangster grandfather and a distant father—who is also a disgraced judge. After his father's death, Matthew is a young man alone. He turns to his father's beloved books for comfort, perceiving within them guidance that leads him to connect with a group of religious extremists. As Matthew immerses himself in this unfamiliar world, the FBI seeks his assistance to foil the group's violent plot. Caught between these powerful forces, haunted by losses past and present, and desperate for redemption, Matthew charts a course of increasing peril—for himself and for everyone around him.
Lyrical and incendiary, The Book of Stone is a masterfully crafted novel that reveals the ambiguities of “good" and “evil".

The Book of Stone examines the evolution of the terrorist mentality and the complexities of religious extremism, as well as how easily a vulnerable mind can be exploited for dark purposes.
Matthew Stone has inherited a troubling legacy: a gangster grandfather and a distant father—who is also a disgraced judge. After his father's death, Matthew is a young man alone. He turns to his father's beloved books for comfort, perceiving within them guidance that leads him to connect with a group of religious extremists. As Matthew immerses himself in this unfamiliar world, the FBI seeks his assistance to foil the group's violent plot. Caught between these powerful forces, haunted by losses past and present, and desperate for redemption, Matthew charts a course of increasing peril—for himself and for everyone around him.
Lyrical and incendiary, The Book of Stone is a masterfully crafted novel that reveals the ambiguities of “good" and “evil".

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About the Author-
  • Dara Horn calls Papernick "an utterly original writer," and The New York Times writes, "There is a muscular certainty to the best of Papernick's stories." Papernick has taught fiction writing at Pratt Institute, Brandeis University, Bar Ilan University, and GrubStreet. A Toronto native, Papernick lives with his wife and two sons outside Boston, where he is a Senior Writer-in-Residence at a Boston-area college.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 8, 2015
    Set in New York City in 1998, this unremarkable thriller from Papernick (The Ascent of Eli Israel) features a protagonist many readers will struggle to like. Matthew Stone is emotionally at sea following the death of his father, Walter, a judge best known for compromising a criminal trial with his own bias. When an Orthodox Jew was charged with the murder of an Arab-American in Brooklyn, Walter put his finger on the scales. Walter's own father was a leading member of organized crime, and the Stone family's intense Jewish identity and Zionism has left Matthew indifferent to his religion and his people. When Matthew gets a Christian Arab woman pregnant, he ends up abandoning her in the face of his father's wrath. His evolution into a member of a Jewish terrorist network planning a major attack in New York is both superficial and psychologically underdeveloped. Heavy-handed prose doesn't help ("The Twin Towers rose above the jumbled chaos of Lower Manhattan like the two tablets of the original Law").

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 15, 2015

    Papernick's provocative debut novel (after two story collections) explores the motives of religious extremism and how it can attract those in search of identity. When Judge Walter Stone dies in his Brooklyn apartment, his listless son Matthew is forced to confront his checkered legacy--Walter left the bench in disgrace after "jurymandering" a trial in favor of an Israeli man who bashed a Palestinian-born shopkeeper to death; his grandfather Julius was a reputed gangster in the time of Meyer Lansky; and his mother left when Matthew was a child. Feeling adrift, Matthew loses himself inside his father's stacks of books, searching for a connection the two never shared when Walter was alive. His loyalties are soon tested when his father's business partner asks Matthew to release funds earmarked for a museum in his father's name--a museum that the FBI believes will be a front for a terrorist operation in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Drawn into a community of believers with a singular focus, Matthew claims his Jewish heritage for the first time, falling in love in the process. He makes a choice that will set him on the true path and finally gain his late father's acceptance. VERDICT This intelligent and timely thriller is told through a Jewish prism, but Papernick's persuasive insights into the nature of fanaticism and its destructive consequences could be applied to any ideology. Highly recommended.--Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2015
    Matthew Stone's father was a celebrated judge who died disgraced because he went too easy on men who murdered Arabs. Now Matthew, the star of this rich, demanding novel, emerges as inheritor of his father's books, money, and lethal hatred of Palestinians. Yes, this is a crime novel, but we spend much time in Matthew's mind as he mopes about, Portnoy-like, among his own internal neuroses. (During sex with beautiful Dasi, he thinks about his mother.) Still, it's those forces swirling around and within Matthew that form the powerful core of the story, as Matthew is pulled into a conspiracy to murder Palestinian dignitaries, the emotion building until he feels, blood red and pulsing behind his ribs, the need to kill. Papernick exploits the spooky parallel here with news stories of privileged teenagers sneaking off to join ISIS, but he also finds time for charming interludes that show a different side to his character, like the sequence that has a young Matthew crossing out slurs and other hurtful words from a dictionary to sap them of their power to hurt. A rewarding literary thriller for those who will take the time it demands.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal (starred review)

    "This intelligent and timely thriller is told through a Jewish prism, but ­Papernick's persuasive insights into the nature of fanaticism and its destructive consequences could be applied to any ideology. Highly recommended."

  • Jewish Book World "Who is susceptible to the morbid attractions of terrorism? Our popular media have made clichés out of half a dozen answers. Jonathan Papernick has created a terrifying novel that illuminates the dark corners of those souls who will give their lives for a cause without regard for their own suffering or that of others....[an] astounding exploration of morality and madness."
  • Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You "The Book of Stone is going to have everyone on the planet talking. Blistering smart, provocative and passionate, Papernick's astounding novel layers a complex father and son story onto the Jewish/Arab conflict, where fierce loyalties and stunning betrayals are about to detonate. Nothing is as it seems in this divided American world: the political becomes personal, religious faith overrides family, and fear can shatter the possibility of love. An astonishing achievement that's sure to ignite dialogue -- and as the best works of art do, push us to see the world differently."
  • Dara Horn, award-winning author of The World to Come and A Guide for the Perplexed “Devastating, gripping and beautiful. The Book of Stone is about fathers and sons, how the past haunts the present, how trauma transcends generations and how wrong we can be about those who made us who we are. What will haunt you forever is how Papernick brings you right up to the border of justice and terror, and then makes that border disappear. Open this book carefully. You will close it changed."
  • Steve Stern, author of The Wedding Jester and The Angel of Forgetfulness "Jonathan Papernick's The Book of Stone is a psychological thriller with a complex soul. In the tradition of writers like Robert Stone and Ian McEwan, Papernick describes the quest to save oneself by redeeming history, and the perilous consequences that arise from confusing the two tasks. It's a harrowing, distinguished book."
  • Aryeh Lev Stollman, author of The Illuminated Soul and The Far Euphrates "The Book of Stone is many amazing things: a searingly-told father-son story in which profound estrangement is tenuously and dangerously bridged through the intermediaries of books and ideas; a modern family tale that is itself embedded in the never-ending, violent tribal drama of the historical conflict between Jews and Arabs. In all its layered psychological intensity, Jon Papernick's new novel is riveting."
  • Michael Wex, bestselling author of Born to Kvetch “Papernick deepens our understanding of humanity and leaves us just a little bit smarter. "
  • Sanford Pinsker, Hadassah Magazine "Papernick's fiction takes no prisoners...[his] stories grab our attention and keep us glued to the page...sometimes darkness falls, sometimes transcendence lifts, but in each case, tenderness always lurks just around the edges...unforgettable."
  • Sandee Brawarsky, The Jewish Week “His writing is energetic and intense...and fills his pages with action and emotional complexity[.]"
  • Canadian Jewish News "Papernick writes about Jewish tradition from the inside with an insider's comprehension of its quirks and contradictions in a prose style tinged with dark humor and irreverence. Comparisons have aptly been made with Nathan Englander and Bernard Malamud...Papernick is nothing if not a literary iconoclast keen on exploding our idols, ideals and conceptions about ourselves and others."
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The Book of Stone
A Novel
Jonathan Papernick
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