11.17.2013

The Stone Boy, by Sophie Loubière

I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher.


The Stone Boy
What do you do when you witness a crime but no one will believe you? Hopefully, you wouldn't do what Madame Préau does in Sophie Loubière's The Stone Boy.

The novel opens with a fast montage of the life of Elsa Préau. She's a determined girl, later a determined woman. But I was left with the distinct impression that there was something off about her. She doesn't have the same emotional responses as you'd expect. She sends her husband away when their son was young, apparently because he couldn't devote as much time to her as she wanted. When M. Préau leaves for Canada, Elsa pushes ahead with her career and forging a relationship with her son, Martin. Time jumps forward again, to a disturbing incident in which Elsa and her grandsone, Bastien, eat some cake and lie down to sleep, drugged.

Loubière picks up Elsa's story some ten years after the unsettling picnic. She's returned to her old home after ten years in a hospital, though we're not told exactly why until much later. Elsa tries to settle in. She takes her medicine. She meets with her psychiatrist. She has awkward lunches with her son once a week. She's eccentric, but understandably eccentric. Elsa learns more about her changed neighborhood and writes letters to the mayor and others about the pollution, traffic, and noise. She seems like a well-meaning busy-body. One day, she sees three children playing in her neighbors' yard. Two are loud and boisterous. The third is wan and easily bullied. No one else seems to notice the child except Elsa. When she tries to tell the local child protective services about the third child, they can't find any record of his birth.

As Elsa tries to find out who the child is, because she fiercely believes in his existence, as a reader you start to wonder if the woman is losing her mind. She takes all kinds of herbal remedies and sleeping pills. She hears things and grows paranoid about all the technology around her. Are the pills having an effect on her sanity? Are the herbs causing a bad reaction? It's so easy to disbelieve Elsa.

The narrative picks up as Elsa speeds toward a confrontation with her neighbors, the Desmoulins. I wasn't expecting such a dramatic encounter, but it changed the book from a psychological thriller to a crime novel. Poor Martin Préau is left to pick up the pieces, again it seems. The revelations come fast and furious at this point, changing everything I thought I knew about the story and about the Préaus. The Stone Boy, though brief, is an amazing read.

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