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The Fruit of Stone (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – April 19, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mark Spragg, author of the widely praised memoir Where Rivers Change Direction, sets off his first novel, The Fruit of Stone, with a cacophony of twittering birds. Starlings, sparrows, and magpies punctuate Barnum McEban's glorious morning-after with his best friend's wife, Gretchen. When Gretchen leaves town and her marriage behind, McEban and his bereft friend Bennett follow her letters from post-office boxes in Wyoming to Montana and back. Cutting through the road-trip action and Bennett's tenuous control over his temper and his rifle is the story of McEban's own family. His emotionally closed father, his migraine-riddled mother, the brusque but paternal ranch foreman Ansel, and his grandmother form a parallel tale of life on the ranch: hard work, hard living, and hard times. Spragg spins a good Western yarn and infuses every natural landscape with poetic intention, but the writing drags in these transcendent descriptions. The story reads at its most authentic in the terse dialogue between the two hardened friends; their inability to speak poetically to each other brings out more emotion than a flock of pretty birds. --Emily Russin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Spragg's debut novel (after the well-received memoir, Where Rivers Change Direction) is a stylish western, set in present-day Wyoming and revolving around a longstanding romantic triangle. Barnum McEban, usually just known as McEban, is a 41-year-old bachelor living on his father's ranch with Ansel, the family ranch hand. His best friend, rancher-turned-developer Bennett Reilly, is married to McEban's old girlfriend, Gretchen. When Gretchen leaves Bennett, she also leaves behind a note recommending that he track her to Bozeman and bring McEban with him. Bennett follows this advice, making the second half of the book a road trip through Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The two men are a fine pair: Bennett half-manic and defeated, and McEban sunk in guilt and memories. In Yellowstone Park, Bennett beats up a mute ranger and picks up two drifting Indians, 29-year-old Rita and her nine-year-old brother, Paul. Their company and the company of Rita's dead sister, Alma, with whom Rita is in constant communication distracts Bennett and McEban, but cannot keep Bennett from following the self-destructive course he is embarked on to a tragic end. Spragg has a nice ear for dialogue and can invest a character (notably Bennett) with comic energy. Unfortunately, all too often he obscures the solid virtues of his storytelling beneath the overfamiliar stoic lyricism that has become almost de rigueur in westerns in the wake of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. Author tour; foreign rights sold in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. (Aug.)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307739384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307739384
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,298,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ronald Scheer on January 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I rated this a 4.5 and then rounded up to 5 stars. The book is a good read, but it should probably come with instructions: "Some Assembly Required." It's structured as a kind of picaresque novel, two men in a pickup (with a horse and a dog) traveling over Wyoming and some other western states in pursuit of a wife who has left home. Along the way, they are joined by a young Native American woman and a boy. This story is intercut with flashbacks to the boyhood and early youth of one of the men. And each section of the novel ends with a surreal dream sequence. How all these pieces fit together is kind of up to the reader.
There's material here that you'll find in the author's "Where Rivers Change Direction" and in his film script for "Everything That Rises" -- a rancher father and son, a man whose parents died when he was young, an old wise bachelor cowboy, the Wyoming landscape, the turn of seasons, horses, ranch work, accidents and injuries. And as in both those other works, Spragg reveals his wonderful gift for revealing character through dialogue. The book is worth reading just for how people talk to each other in a wry, ironic, self-deprecating way. And the precision in his observations of human behavior and the outdoors is in top form.
Compared to the thoughtful, interior quality of Spragg's essays, which really get you inside the mind of the writer, the novel is more cinematic. It gives vivid images of surfaces, and the inner life and motivations of the characters have to be surmised from their behavior, which is often quirky, impulsive, and upredictable.
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Format: Hardcover
I read a lot. But I often don't take the time to write reviews. Having just finished Mark Spragg's, The Fruit of Stone I am compelled to review it because his novel burrowed itself into my soul in a way that no other book has since reading The Boy and the Dog are Sleeping. The Boy and the Dog are Sleeping is a better book because it is a memoir, a real story about love spilling out over life like a rain- swollen stream that has crested far above its banks spreads out over the land. The Fruit of Stone is fiction, so it's not as amazing. But it has that same spirit of hope rising out of miserable circumstances. And the hope, in its quiet, yet muscular way is convincing

Other reviewers have given the outlines of the plot, but even if they hadn't, I wouldn't. The plot, though engaging, is not the heart of the story. It's simply the skeleton to support the muscle and sinew of a story about what it means to love. To love family, to love romantically, to love in friendship, and to love in empathy, despite severe shortcomings, stretched circumstances, and broken people. McEban, the central character who tells his story, portrays love in all its guises and in a way that lets you see that love is about giving more than getting, though getting comes from the giving.

This is not an easy read. People hurt and are hurt, injure and are injured. Sometimes gravely sometimes not so gravely. Sometimes they have it coming. Sometimes not. Many times life gets away from them. But then it comes back because they let it... or they decide they'd rather not. In the end, McEban comes through in a way you knew he would. But it feels surreal and right, a resting place after a long journey, not the syrupy end that it could be.

The Chicago Tribune writer whose quote is on the front of the book nailed it, writing, "Achingly beautiful."
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Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written book that explores love and friendship in a creative and surprising storyline. It made me laugh out loud several times and read sections aloud to my wife repeatedly. The wordcraft is wonderful.

While there are some things this book that one can question, that seems to miss the point. Mr. Spragg wasn't following my idea of what should make perfect sense or what he should explain. Rather he wrote the story he wanted to tell. I absolutely loved reading it. His character development, dialog and sense of place are exceptional. When the wind changes and the storm blows in and then the rain changes to hail - I was back there again myself, listening to "the sharp snare-drum shatter of the ice pellets against the truck's hood and roof."
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Format: Hardcover
In his 2nd book and first novel, Fruit of Stone, Mark Spragg continues to use his considerable skills to define the men, women and the landscape of the West with a narrative that takes the reader on an unusual quest filled with unexpected twists and rich returns. .
Spragg, a writer with a keen awareness of word sentence balance is also an extraordinary storyteller. The characters in this book are vividly, boldly, and yet tenderly drawn. They captivate the reader. Each character is well developed and clearly defined with the exception of the woman who motivates the central action of the novel, the quest; she is ephemeral, sylph-like, enigmatic, and thus fascinating. She lures, beckons and frustrates both the reader and the protagonist. Gretchen carries Milton in her book bag, but it is the poet John Keats' ballad "Belle Dame sans Merci" which best describes her. She is the beautiful woman without mercy.
In the current literary landscape littered with drugstore cowboys, Mark Spragg's, McEban stands out as the genuine article as we follow him and his best friend Bennett through the mountains and plains of Wyoming and Montana, back to Wyoming and into Nebraska, an illusive Gretchen ever alluring, ever beckoning,
In the loneliness of the harsh plains and the high mountains of Wyoming the ability to trust a friend can and often does determine the survival of an individual. Spragg's cleanly drawn protagonist, rancher McEban and his best friend Bennett enjoy such a relationship.
This is a fine, rich western novel. It would be a mistake to dismiss Mark Spragg as merely a regional writer. His characters speak for the West as William Faulkner's speak for the South.
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