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By Rodney Nelsestuen

IR Rating:
Rodney Nelsestuen's TOO MANY STONES is an emotionally powerful novel about how the collision of sexual ignorance and teen rape shapes life opportunities and family development.
IR Approved
A luminous pastoral novel about how a young teen’s sexual awakening and rape drastically change her life and those of everyone close to her during the Great Depression.

Rodney Nelsestuen’s TOO MANY STONES is a gripping novel about a teen rape that is sure to encourage deep conversation concerning ignorance about sexuality, as well as the consequences of poor nurturance. It deserves to be discovered and discussed on many levels.

In the summer of 1930, Evelyn Torrasson is a happy 11-year-old living in Southwestern Wisconsin’s coulee lands—vast, broad canyons prone to flooding. Nelsestuen’s description of the beauties and dangers of the natural environment is luminous. Both Evelyn and her father, Olav, worship the coulee country where Evelyn’s favorite tree, a huge oak, “has survived a century of fire, drought, insects, disease, lightning, and man.” It endures, and so will Evelyn.

Olav is a dairy farmer who barely ekes out a living for his three children and frail wife, Louise, who is mentally unstable. He has a cheerful, can-do attitude that Evelyn has inherited. She has no friends but enjoys her father’s company. Unlike her younger brothers, Peder and John, she takes joy in working with Olav and caring for their livestock.

Although Olav has taught Evelyn how to survive the coulee’s menacing thunderstorms, neither he nor Louise has prepared her for the greater tempest of sexual attraction and violation. When Evelyn’s first period occurs at school, it is her new teacher, Miss Mary Johnson, who explains the menstrual cycle and its relationship to pregnancy. Miss Johnson is keenly aware of the teen’s intelligence and potential, but not her emotional needs. Neither her parents nor Miss Johnson learn until it is too late that Evelyn is drawn to the school custodian, her 20-year-old second cousin, Alfred Torrasson.

Alfred isn’t simply a bad guy. Nelsestuen explores his central characters in depth and shows how Alfred’s bad parenting has stunted his emotional growth. A lonely man-child, Alfred has lived like an indentured servant on a neighboring farm since being orphaned. Similarly, the author delves into Evelyn’s inchoate longings. She enjoys the way Alfred engages her in adult conversation and the adventure he adds to her life, including a tractor joyride. But the way he looks at her is frightening. This fear is mysterious to her and “only makes her want to get closer to him.”

TOO MANY STONES stretches from the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, but the challenges it presents are timeless.

Rodney Nelsestuen’s TOO MANY STONES is an emotionally powerful novel about how the collision of sexual ignorance and teen rape shapes life opportunities and family development.

~Alicia Rudnicki for IndieReader

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