A Stone for Bread
On May 11, 2020, Miriam’s second novel A Stone for Bread won the 2020 Eric Hoffer competition Legacy Award, which placed the novel on the short list for the Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize. Prior to publication, the Stone for Bread manuscript was a top-ten finalist in the 2014 International Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Novel Competition. In 2016, it was nominated for North Carolina’s prestigious Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. Published by Livingston Press of the University of West Alabama, the novel received a starred Kirkus review through the Kirkus Indy program and was cited by Kirkus as an Indy Best book of the year for 2016. It was a 2017 Finalist in the International Book Awards, Literary Fiction category. In January, 2016, the novel was featured in The North Carolina Literary Review in a joint review with authors Robert Morgan and Terry Roberts. See the review.
A new review by author Joel Stamberg is published in the June 2020 US Review of Books:About A Stone for Bread.
About the novel:
In 1963, North Carolina poet Henry Beam published a collection of poems supposedly saved from a Nazi slave labor camp. The authorship controversy that followed cost Henry his university teaching position and forced the poet into decades of silence. Thirty-four years after the poems’ publication, Henry breaks that silence when he begins telling grad student Rachel Singer the story of his study year in Paris, how the naïve young American became entangled with fiery right-wing politician Renard Marcotte, his love affair with the shopgirl Eugenié and his unnerving encounter with the enigmatic René, the Frenchman Henry claims gave him the poems. A Stone for Bread moves back and forth in time from 1997 North Carolina to post-World War I France, to Paris in the mid-1950’s and into the horror of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.
Review by Kristina Moriconi, Change Seven Magazine, April 14, 2017
On the pages of A Stone for Bread, there are intersections where readers will want to pause, places where poetry and politics meet, where history and human relationships overlap and weave together, one shedding light on the continuity and complexity of the other.
Throughout Miriam Herin’s novel, readers will want to pause for other reasons as well: to listen to the lyrical sound of her language, to realize how easy it is to lose oneself in a story well-told, and to learn beyond the lessons of a classroom how one masters the craft of writing.
The first time I read A Stone for Bread, I read it fast, for content. In fact, I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn into the individual stories of each character, told in alternating chapters. And I was fascinated by the larger story of lives linked by love and loss, by the staggering, heart-stopping account of the Holocaust and the complicated, storied life of a poet named Henry Beam, Herin’s unforgettable main character. In this novel, the past loops and lingers, it ripples into the present to remind us and to cast shadow-making light on the deeds of both its champions and its monsters.
The second time I read this book, I slowed my pace intentionally. I read passages aloud. I marveled at the cadence of Herin’s poetic language in lines such as: “We’re the picnickers, the revelers, dancing on the bones of the dead.” And this: “When does an act of rebellion, he wondered, like one man alone against the tyranny of a tank, become an artistic act, a transcendent moment of truth?” I read certain lines more than once, paid close attention to the exquisite language of Herin’s metaphor: “…as if the dark angel released in him a fury of winged creatures that dug their teeth and talons into his soul.” And this: “Hope is a knife in the heart.”
I was aware as I read, in an awe-struck way, of the narrative threads Herin was braiding so beautifully and continuously throughout this novel. I mapped them in my mind and on paper: lives meticulously linked, stories stretching across centuries. As a reader, how I felt, without fail, in the hands of a trusted narrator. As a writer, how I studied closely both the specificity and the expansive scope of Herin’s storytelling.
A Stone for Bread is a novel I will keep close by. It is a book I will return to and one I will recommend to other writers and readers I know. In the now immortal words of Miriam Herin’s Henry Beam, “You have to…read it again, and again, until it breathes in you, flows through your bloodstream and beats in your heart.” And it will.
Kristina Moriconi is a poet and essayist. She is the author of the chapbook, No Such Place (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her work has appeared most recently in Cobalt Review, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Crab Creek Review, and is forthcoming in december. In 2014, she was named the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Poet Laureate. She lives and teaches now in suburban Philadelphia where she co-founded and now helps to sustain the nonprofit, Men Anpil(Many Hands), working to help educate Haitian students who will ultimately become medical professionals in their country.