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Sky of Stone: A Memoir Hardcover – October 9, 2001

92 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Coalwood Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Retired NASA engineer Hickam became a minor mass market celebrity in 1994 after a last-minute 2,000-word filler for Air & Space magazine (he spent three hours writing about launching homemade rockets in 1950s Coalwood, W.Va.) brought an avalanche of phone calls and letters. He expanded the article into 1998's bestselling Rocket Boys, filmed as the critically acclaimed October Sky (2001). Four hundred schools now use his memoirs in their curricula. The latest episode takes place in 1961 during young Hickam's first summer vacation from college, shortly after a foreman's death at the mine that Hickam's father supervises. Hickam (nicknamed Sonny) plans to read Robert A. Heinlein and meet girls in Myrtle Beach where his mother, Elsie, has a new dreamhouse, but Elsie insists he return home since his father is being accused of negligence in the foreman's death. Stuck in Coalwood, Sonny takes a difficult job laying track. Amid Sonny's travails with unrequited love, the track-laying competition and being stonewalled by his father and the locals when he asks anything about the death, state and federal inspectors arrive to investigate. Hickam prolongs the suspense in this cleverly constructed, richly detailed mystery peppered with colloquial dialogue and vivid characters. This pleasing book only reinforces his oeuvre. (Oct. 9)Forecast: A preview excerpt in The Coalwood Way paperback (Sept.), an author tour (including a keynote speech at the Ohio Library Council Conference), promotion at Coalwood's Annual October Sky Festival, an unabridged audiobook and large print editions, and Hickam's popularity promise skyrocketing sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Lucky readers of Rocket Boys (Delacorte, 1998), which became Hollywood's hit October Sky, will welcome this final volume of Hickam's trilogy about his youth in Coalwood, WV. He recounts how he headed off to Virginia Tech in 1960 to become an engineer so he could go to work for Wernher Von Braun. During his freshman year, his mother realized her dream of living in Myrtle Beach and Hickam, then 18, hoped for a summer of sand and girls. Instead, she sent him home because his father, a coal-mine superintendent, was in some kind of serious trouble that she didn't explain and needed him. Hickam recalls feeling like an outsider after a year away but, in need of money, hired on at the mine over his father's objections. The writing is so vivid and immediate that readers will feel as if they've spent the summer with Hickam as he learns much about his distant father, has a crush on an older female mining engineer with big plans for herself, and ultimately helps to solve the mystery of his dad's trouble. All of his friends and neighbors will be like old friends, thanks to these colorful portraits. With a sharp eye and an ability to laugh at himself, Hickam offers a reading experience that is every bit as good as the first two. This coming-of-age tale celebrates the virtues of community and family without a hint of preachiness, and provides a rousing good story into the bargain.

Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385335229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385335225
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #657,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Homer Hickam (also known as Homer H. Hickam, Jr.) is probably best known for his # 1 New York Times best-selling memoir Rocket Boys which was adapted into the movie October Sky (a title he dislikes). Carrying Albert Home, his latest, is somewhat of a prequel to that work but, as he says, "somewhat not." He is also the author of the popular "Josh Thurlow" and "Crater" series. Winner of the University of Alabama's Clarence Cason Award and the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award for his memoirs and fiction plus many other writing awards including an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Marshall University, Mr. Hickam, a Vietnam combat veteran, has also been a coal miner, scuba instructor, engineer, paleontologist (two T.rexes to his credit!), and now a best-selling author. It's that latter accomplishment he likes the best. For more information on Mr. Hickam and his various careers and books and cats and everything else, please go to

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Through Homer Hickam's marvelous memoirs, readers have been transported to Coalwood, West Virginia, of the late 1950s - first in ROCKET BOYS (made into the film OCTOBER SKY), then THE COALWOOD WAY, and now SKY OF STONE.
It's the summer of 1961. After his freshman year at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Homer wants to join his mother at her new house in Myrtle Beach, a coastal resort in South Carolina. But there's been a fatal accident back in the mine at Coalwood, and Homer's Dad, the mine superintendent, is under investigation by state and federal agencies. So, Mom tells Homer to go back home and keep his Dad company. And, as readers of the series know, Elsie Hickam is not one to trifle with.
SKY OF STONE is, I think, certainly superior to THE COALWOOD WAY, and perhaps even to ROCKET BOYS. It's in this third volume that Homer emerges from adolescence. He comes to grips with his parents' increasing estrangement from each other, his father's emotional distance, the loss of beloved pets, and the primacy of his older brother in his father's affections. Then there's Homer's first serious crush, the object being Rita, a junior mining engineer several years his senior. Finally, to pay off damage done to his father's Buick, Homer defies both parents, joins the United Mine Workers of America, moves out of the family home, and goes to work in the coal mine as a summer job. (SKY OF STONE refers to the ceiling of solid rock over the mine's tunnels.)
Homer's semi-dysfunctional family remains a source of reader sympathy. Over one weekend, young Hickam resides with the Likens family, the menfolk of which are going to improve their guest's softball skills. (Homer's been drafted by the union team that will play management on the Fourth of July.) At breakfast, Homer notices:
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on October 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
During times of national crisis, it is all the more important for our nation to honor those heroes whose moral compass is true and whose voice reminds us of the unspoken, but genuine, values which symbolize greatness. Call it the Coalwood way, label it steadfastness of purpose, name it resolute adherence to hard work and internal discipline -- whatever words you wish to describe the genuine virtues of Homer Hickam, your commentary will not miss the mark. "Sky of Stone," the third installment of Hickam's memoirs, is a brilliant book; its vibrant pages remind us of the galvanizing power of individual excellence and of how common people, striving to live coherent and decent lives, serve as genuine role models for a national community that cherishes the notion of individual responsibility, hard work, and shared moral values.
"Sky of Stone" chronicles Homer Hickam's summer of 1961, one year after his graduation from high school and light years away from the gloriously innocent time of his adolesence, celebrated in "October Sky." This volume is a more somber, questioning memoir; it presents to us a terribly conflicted Homer, worried about his floundering studies at Virginia Tech, tormented about the apparent disintegration of his parents' marriage, and adrift in his own life, undertain as to how he will attain his goal of helping put humans on the moon. Hopes for spending the summer on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean flounder when his mother orders him to return to Coalwood to provide assistance to his father, who is embroiled in an investigation which could cost him his job.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It's tempting to cast Homer Hickam as a rags-to-riches, self-made man. The son of a coal mine supervisor, he was raised in a rural West Virginia town with limited access to public education's most up-to-date resources. When, as a child, he experimented with designing and launching rockets (well before man had walked on the moon), he went up against the traditions of a community that had little use for original behavior. Inauspicious beginnings perhaps, but as an adult, Homer Hickam became an engineer for NASA and a best-selling writer.
So it would have been easy for him to paint himself as an undiscovered diamond in an unforgiving coal town. But that's not the tenor of Sky of Stone, in which Hickam re-creates the events of a long-ago summer spent in his hometown of Coalwood following his freshman year in college.
Sky of Stone is a follow-up to Hickam's two previous memoirs, Rocket Boys (which was made into the movie October Sky) and The Coalwood Way. In all three books, the author commemorates his hometown and its citizens with loving admiration. Homer's parents, though imperfect, are remembered for their humor, dedication and ingenuity. The author gives them full credit for insisting that he go to college and pursue his dreams.
More surprisingly, Hickam portrays Coalwood not as a soul- and lung-destroying wasteland, but as the embodiment of the American dream. Coalwood's fine schools, decent houses and well-nourished families are sustained by the production of coal. That's what the town's mining families believed, and Hickam honors their strong sense of self-determination.
The dark side to the coal industry -- black lung, union quarrels, unequal opportunity for women -- rears its head in Hickam's reminiscences, as they did in Coalwood in 1961.
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