The Stone Diaries recount the life of Daisy Goodwill (1905-199? [sic]). "[W]ife, mother, citizen of our century," her son closes the benediction of her memorial service. Yet Daisy is also the orphaned daughter of an orphan--her dramatic birth a turning point for her father, the neighbours--and a social outcast. Daisy becomes a happy child, a lifelong friend, a college graduate, a consummate gardener, a cultivator of stories, a pragmatist, a romantic, a widow twice (once scandalously, once more ordinarily) . . . . In short, the diaries of "Day's Eye" bear witness to the extraordinary lives of seemingly ordinary "citizens."


Shields's creation of a fictional (auto-)biography--including an epigraph comprised of a published poem by the protagonist's granddaughter, a family tree, and photographs of the main characters--moves readably between first and third person narrations, internal and external focalisations, and an unobtrusive, then intrusive implied author. It strikes directly at the relationships among fictional and nonfictional narratives, literature, biography and autobiography, blurring multiple boundaries. This fictitious nonfiction emphasizes the constructedness of all narrations, oral or written, whether they are stories we tell ourselves about our life, others tell about us, we tell about others, or ones we believe are not "made up".

Beautifully composed around two central metaphors of flower and stone, the novel also highlights the intricate relationships among self and other, self and Other, and self as other. In so doing it explores with wit and insight individual and collective histories of life in twentieth century United States and Canada. Even as it advocates living life as a narrative creation, it demonstrates the leitmotifs of lives lived and told, the intergenerational resonances, the extended metaphors of our narrations--the extraordinary ordinariness of a descendant of stone masons, botanists and gardeners becoming "an award-winning paleobotanist."


This novel won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Governor General's Award. First published in the U.S. in 1994 (Viking Penguin).


Penguin: Viking Penguin

Place Published

New York



Secondary Source