Cover image for Skimming Stones by Maria Papas

Title: Skimming StonesAuthor: Maria Papas
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Published: 2021

Skimming Stones might be the best thing I have read all year. This might be because I read it at a time when I had just started working in a hospital, or maybe the way Papas conveyed the sense of place transported me home even though I was away from it. Regardless, I think this is a novel many readers will enjoy.

Set in Perth, Skimming Stones follows Grace, a nurse working in palliative care in a paediatric cancer ward. The novel immediately drew me in with mention of her sister Emma’s experience with cancer, and the affair Grace has begun with a married man. On the surface these themes may seem dark and depressing, but Papas uses beautifully light prose to inject a wistful and nostalgic familiarity into the story:

“After my sister’s illness, the colours of summer became brighter, and the sunsets grew deep… Our new suburban lives quickly warmed us in the same way sunshine warms sand at the beach.”

The juxtaposition this language creates between light and dark propelled me through this novel and kept me from getting trapped in any sadness caused by the content.

I found Grace as a narrator extremely interesting. After spending my teen years reading fiction like A Fault in Our Stars and My Sister’s Keeper, where the focus is on the child with cancer, Skimming Stones felt special as it adjusts the reader’s lens to focus on the sibling. We find out through flashbacks that Grace’s younger sister, Emma, was diagnosed with cancer at a very young age. And though Grace is nine years older, the two are attached at the hip – their sisterly connection leapt out through the pages.

I also found myself constantly forgetting I was reading a work of fiction. Grace’s voice is so palpable and real that at times I felt I was reading a biography. I was absorbed into her world. Additionally, Papas weaves in parallels of past and present, elements of Greek culture and the complexities of marriage, all contributing to creating a truly visceral experience when reading about Grace’s life. I was deeply moved by her story, and the stories of the characters that surround her.

Sitting at only around 200 pages, Skimming Stones is a relatively quick read. For readers who enjoy slice-of-life contemporary fiction and are in the mood for some more serious themes, I would highly, highly recommend it!

Underground Team
editors.underground.writers@gmail.com

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