I really enjoyed this book. It is a sweet, tender story about an up-tight, rather taciturn, 44 year old middle aged man, Benedict Stone, and his 16 year old niece Gemma Stone. Although uninvited, she arrives on his doorstep and moves into his home.
Benedict Stone is a jeweler who has recently been rejected by his wife Estelle, an artist. They had once lived happily and quietly in what seemed to be a lovely English village called Noon Sun. Benedict dearly wanted to have children, but he and his wife were, so far, unable to start a family. She moved on, but he would not give up hope and it was straining their marriage. Gemma is the daughter of Benedict’s younger brother Charlie, a man he had not seen or heard from in 18 years. Benedict was 18 and Charlie was 10 when their parents were killed in a tsunami. Benedict devoted his life to raising his brother until the day Charlie left for America to live with his girlfriend Amelia’s family. Amelia was the woman who was to become his wife. Gemma now lives with her father on a farm in Maine. Her parents were divorced but her father and his new wife are expecting a child. Gemma feels utterly unwanted and rejected by all of these new developments in her life. Essentially, the absence of a child in one couple’s life and the presence of a coming child in another’s, is the seed of all of the problems.
When Estelle left Benedict to move into her friend’s apartment to ostensibly pursue her art career and to think about their waning relationship, he lost his interest in most things. Without her, he went through his days automatically. He took his comfort in food and disregarded the condition of his home which was succumbing to his neglectful ways. When someone banged on his door in the middle of one rainy night, he was surprised to find, not his wife returning, but instead, a bedraggled, rather arrogant teenager was on his doorstep. She demanded to be let in after announcing that she was his brother’s daughter, a brother he had not had any contact with for 18 years, a brother who lived across the ocean in America! From here on in, this semi-stranger, his niece Gemma, helps to bring about many positive changes in the lives of all those she meets in the village. As long kept secrets are exposed, and new ones are suddenly discovered, revelations cause monumental changes in all of their lives.
Together, the budding relationship between uncle and niece, which begins in fits and starts, teaches them both, and those with whom they interact, how to see things more clearly, how to open themselves up to challenge and face their fears, and it brings them all satisfaction and provides them with the confidence they need to make the necessary adjustments that will improve their lives.
Fairytale like, this unconventional young girl brings joy into the lives of all she meets with her brutal honesty and sincerity. Sometimes, her analysis seems to be coming from the only adult in the room, defying the reality that she is the only child present. She enables many of the town’s residents, who are floundering, to find their way to happiness, although she has a hard time finding consistent joy for herself.
It was a pleasure to read and learn about the meaning of each gemstone, it’s purpose, and the way in which it was used in the story to help a character achieve his/her goal. It was the magic of believing that seemed to pave the way, seemed to be the impetus for the achievement each character sought. The stones seemed to be the mechanism that united families, friends and lovers, that mended fences and romances, and that renewed hope in many. Although secrets destroyed relationships, revealing them sometimes led to more solid foundations and reconciliation.
The names of the characters seemed to have been chosen tongue-in-cheek. Benedict Stone’s parents died on a business trip in search of gemstones. Benedict is a jeweler who works with stones. Gemma’s first name and their common surname Stone is an obvious combination of both words in gemstone. It is through the gemstones and their meanings that the book develops and the characters grow. They come in search of something nebulous, and Gemma and Benedict give them the tools they need to fulfill their dreams. As the “gem and the stone” discover each other, they provide what just might bring them all the happiness they seek.