Mark Di Ionno’s Gods of Wood and Stone is a twenty-first century novel that explores the age-old conflict between fathers and sons. The two main characters, Horace and Joe, have entered middle age and are beginning to question their accomplishments, and their time remaining. Both stories run parallel to each other; the reader knows that they will meet, but their paths to that collision are unclear.
Horace Meuller started life on the rise in academia, but twenty years ago, he chose to become a blacksmith; more specifically, he became a historical reenactor at a model farm just outside of Cooperstown, NY. After a long and successful career with the Boston Red Sox, Joe Grudeck has just been named to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is struggling over his life as a womanizer and his position as glorified country club host. He sees his acceptance speech as a possible way come to terms with his regrets.
Horace has a strained relationship with his son. He doesn’t find value in Mikey’s interest in baseball and the culture that comes with it, especially when he has been working with his hands for so long. Joe was never able to let someone in and accept a partner in life; he is without children, but contemplates his father’s influence regularly. These are great complicated characters dealing with misplaced anger who are constantly trying to put a face on their frustrations.
Di Ionno has not written a book about heroes and villains, although the characters so deeply want their lives to be that simple. Both men are battling with the ‘simple’ America they knew when they entered the real world and the America they are faced with now: a son who rejects his father’s way of life, and fans who see players as less than human. (I had played the game for many years and have coached for twenty, Di Ionno’s description of all things baseball is always authentic.)
Gods of Wood and Stone is a literary page-turner that I highly recommend. Held up against a backdrop of baseball and traditional agrarian life, the author tackles the crucial issues of nostalgia and progress, of instant gratification and a ‘like’ culture. There is great tragedy in this book. A mad dash home at the end… towards a final realization for all the characters.
5 out of 5 stars
Comes out on July 17th, 2018.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Touchstone Books, and Mark Di Ionno for an advanced copy for review.