“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Jesse Bryce, of 'Throwing Stones' by Robin Reardon, is a young man full of questions about why the world, and specifically his family, believes that being gay is a sin. Jesse's next big concern is why the people of his small town persecute a group of Pagans who live nearby. Instead of just accepting the situation, Jesse decides to find a way to do something about both problems.
As Jesse gets to know people in the Pagan community, his tolerance for the many untruths and superstitions greatly affects him because he knows most of it is fear of the unknown, along with several fabrications or, at the least, exaggerations. As far as his family goes, Jesse has done his research and decides to help his parents understand by educating them about being gay; hopefully, having this information will help dispel their fears. Jesse wants to help them realize that he's the same person he's always been, and them knowing that he is gay isn't going to change him.
The children from the village go to school with the townspeople where they are persecuted and bullied. Their families are looked down upon and called devil worshipers or worse. Even so, they never retaliate. Jesse makes friends with some of the young men from the village and goes into their community, anxious to learn all about them and their beliefs. Jesse is open-minded and curious about the Pagan way. The people in the Grove accept Jesse's sexuality unconditionally, whereas his family is still struggling to accept it. When it's discovered that Jesse is lying to his parents about where he is going, he's banished until he has his parents' permission to return. Although Jesse is hurt and disappointed, he complies because he knows that honesty is highly valued in the Grove and is one of the values he admires about them.
There's a great deal more to this four hundred and six-page story than I can convey in a short review, but I want to say I was fascinated with how the “tutorial” on the Pagan way and how the other paranormal aspects of the book are explained and blended into the “real world”. It dragged a little during Jesse's learning process when he asked a plethora of questions, but it picked up the pace after that. It may have felt that way to me because I'm fairly versed in Paganism, but someone who isn’t may feel differently. As far as characters go, Jesse was a terrific and admirable young man with a lot going for him with a drive and ambition seldom seen in someone his age. Jesse would be the kind of person who when asked the question “Why?” he would answer, “Why not?” He didn't let barriers keep him from achieving his goal, whether it be promoting better relationship between the two communities or convincing his best friends that he was still “just Jesse”.
If you like unusual stories about Paganism, spirit animals, loyalty, truthfulness, young love, coming of age, and reuniting people, this may be one you will enjoy. Thank you, Robin, for reminding me that familiarity breeds understanding.