... supremely beautiful ... What sets this novel apart — what marks its entrancing power — is a voice and vision (told in very close third person) that are solely the child’s. Adult perception never takes over, except as reported by Pira. I cannot remember anything like it. Instantly, it pulls a reader deeply into her own childhood — via prose so simple and direct it almost disappears. 'Clear as light,' were my first notes. We’re not just alongside the child: we’re inside the child. It’s a masterful feat ... Pira’s mind, like most children’s, is a kind of unexposed film, imprinted by everything — micro to macro — in vibrant dimension ... Such moments — with so many like them, wondrous for their simplicity and depth — stand as small miracles. Readers inhabit both the adult recognizing the predicament and the child desperately trying to understand. A great tenderness infuses this telling, never once veering into preciousness. The narrative’s lush scope — from Pira’s deep dream life to the sight of the mighty volcano whose ancient creation stories he’s memorized to assorted crises including a scorpion’s near-fatal sting — reveals the boy’s gentle, undefended awakening to his own and others’ flawed, earnest love. An exquisite meditation upon language, meaning, human longing and consciousness itself, Stone World will fill readers with wonder.
... a dreamy, haunting immersion in the mind of a child in a gravely serious adult world ... This is a quietly profound study of boyhood, in some ways almost humdrum ... Through the eyes of this curious, philosophical, sensitive child, the whole world is fresh and new, colorful, beautiful and dangerous ... In the hands of such a skilled and nuanced writer, this material glistens and tilts with both beauty and menace. Pira is captivating, and The Stone World is completely absorbing. Readers should clear their calendars until the final page has been turned, and then leave time for the contemplation this novel deserves.
The story is loosely based on Agee’s own childhood, and he dexterously establishes the curious, imaginative, and innocent narrative voice of his young narrator ... Agee’s languid, poetic prose masterfully builds Pira’s seemingly bucolic world while subtly hinting at the inevitable loss of innocence. He brilliantly plays with language, employing multiple meanings to indicate the inherent dichotomy of childhood and experience ... Agee agilely keeps the political strife on the periphery but hints at the labor conflicts and the ideological foment that will soon seed the Cold War divide. A portrait of the artist as a young child.
Although Pira is a bright, emotional child—and an aspiring poet—whose voice occasionally flirts with lyricism or profundity, he is absent any outsized quirks or precociousness. He asks questions about concepts like evil, honesty, and prayer, and the adults in his life answer him attentively, without a trace of irony. The only clues that this book is geared toward adult readers are the rare descriptions of curse words, violence, or human anatomy, all interpreted through Pira’s naïveté. The unpretentiousness of the story carries a certain magic, but its larger meaning hinges on its connection to Agee’s 1981 memoir, Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany. ... An earnest and mystical evocation of childhood memory.
... tender and potent ... Agee’s lyrical prose glides the reader through defining moments of love, friendship, and maturity as Peter comes to cherish his foreign cultural surroundings ... The author does a fine job presenting an era of unrest, both for a boy and for a country.