Stones for Ibarra

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Stones for Ibarra

by Harriet Doerr


A novel set in Mexico c. 1960; first published in New York City in 1984.


An American couple, Richard and Sara Everton, move to a remote Mexican village to reopen an old abandoned copper mine originally founded by Richard’s grandfather. Soon after making the move, they learn that Richard has been stricken by a fatal disease and has only six years to live.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Takes Place

The Novel in Focus

Events in History at the Time the Novel Was Written

For More Information

Born in Pasadena, California, in 1910, Harriet Doerr married and raised a family before graduating from Stanford University in 1977 with a degree in European History. She then enrolled in Stanford’s graduate program in Creative Writing and shortly afterward published several short stories that later became individual chapters of her first novel, Stones for Ibarra. Its success inspired a second best-selling novel, Consider This, Señora (1993), also set in Mexico. Doerr produced two short-story collections as well, Under an Aztec Sun (1990) and The Tiger in the Grass (1995). Like much of her other writing, Stones for Ibarra illuminates the cultural differences that can impede communication between Mexicans and Americans, while also suggesting that each culture has valuable lessons to learn from the other.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Takes Place

Historical background: the Díaz era and the Mexican Revolution

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Mexico emerged from fifty years of chaos into an era of relative calm. Political and social upheaval had followed Mexico’s Wars of Independence from colonial Spain in 1810-1821, and subsequent events compounded the upheaval. Worsening the chaos were disasters such as the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, in which Mexico lost vast areas of its far north to the United States. (These lands, extending from California to Texas, subsequently became the American Southwest.) In 1861 Mexico’s anarchic conditions had led to invasion and attempted conquest by France, but Mexican forces decisively defeated the French on May 5, 1862, a date that Mexicans celebrate as a major national holiday. The hero of the battle was a young Mexican general named Porfirio Díaz. The French were finally defeated in 1867, after which came continued political turbulence. Díaz seized power in 1876 and proceeded to quell the turbulence. Restoring stability and initiating a series of economic reforms, he retained control of Mexico until 1910, leaving his mark on his country’s political system.

Encouraged by the newfound stability and by Díaz’s modernizing reforms, by the late 1880s American and European investors were flocking to pour much-needed capital into the Mexican economy. Catching up on fifty years of industrial and technological development, the Díaz years ushered in the rapid expansion of railroads, telegraph lines, and roads. Industry too benefitted from the infusion of foreign capital, including oil and especially mining, which now revived after a long slump. Mexico’s rich mineral resources featured large gold, silver, and copper deposits, and in 1884 the Díaz government enacted a new mining code that offered tax breaks and other incentives to mine owners. A few made their fortunes in the process, but on the whole the Mexican people would grow poorer during Díaz’s regime, which turned into a dictatorship.

By the early 1900s more than 1, 000 mining companies were operating in Mexico, with Americans owning about 85 percent of them. The mining companies varied from huge conglomerates such as the American Smelting and Refining Company, owned by the Guggenheim family (whose Mexican mining interests were valued at $12 million in 1902), to smaller independent operations. The best known independent operator was Colonel William Greene, the so-called “copper king of Sonora,” who came to Mexico in 1898 with little money, but soon built his Cananea Mining Company into one of the world’s largest copper producers. The company employed 3, 500 men and operated eight large smelting furnaces. Like Greene’s Cananea mines, the most abundant copper mines sat in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, near the United States border. In Stones for Ibarra Richard Everton’s grandfather is said to have opened and operated a smaller independent copper mine farther south, at Ibarra, a fictional town in a fictional state somewhere in the central part of the country. Called the Malagueña mine, the novel’s fictional mine dates from the Díaz era. For many Mexicans, such companies—like Greene’s Cananea Consolidated Copper Company—came to symbolize the foreign domination of Mexico’s natural resources and industry under the Díaz regime.

Díaz’s government manipulated property laws to encourage the concentration of land in the hands of a few wealthy supporters. Land passed out of the control of peasants and Indians (both groups could rarely prove ownership of land that they had occupied for generations), increasing the already vast estates, or haciendas, of the wealthy. By 1910 only 2 percent of Mexicans legally owned land, while 3 percent of the property holders owned nearly 60 percent of the country (Foster, p. 148). More than two-thirds of Mexicans were landless farmers, most working as peónes, or agricultural laborers, for wealthy landowners (known as hacendados) in exchange for low wages and the right to farm a small plot. The system was one of debt-peonage; the peones were often forced into debt to the hacendados in order to survive, which in effect perpetuated their servitude. Hunger and poverty were widespread. As noted, most Mexicans were materially worse off in 1910 than they had been a century earlier.

In 1910 popular discontent with the Díaz regime finally spilled over into revolution. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was long and complex, prompting historians to divide it into two major phases. The military phase extended from 1910 to 1920; as many as 2 million Mexicans—an eighth of the total population—may have died in its anarchic and complicated civil wars. The so-called constructive or reconstructive phase lasted from 1920 to 1940, as Mexicans slowly and painfully struggled to implement the ideals for which the revolutionaries had originally fought. As embodied in the Constitution of 1917, those ideals included anticlericalism (the desire to limit the influence of the traditionally predominant Roman Catholic Church), the redistribution of land, workers rights, and an end to foreign economic exploitation. (New fighting—the Cristero rebellion—broke out from 1926-29 in relation to limits placed on the Church.) The Revolution of 1910 is mentioned repeatedly in the novel in connection with these and other issues, forming a constant background presence. Indeed, although the novel’s events take place half a century later, in the first paragraph the reader is introduced not only to Richard and Sara Everton, but also to “the copper mine that Richard’s grandfather abandoned fifty years ago, during the Revolution of 1910” (Doerr, Stones for Ibarra, p. 1). It is the impulse to reopen this mine that brings the couple back to Mexico.

Postwar economic boom: the “Mexican miracle.”

By World War II (1939-45) Mexico’s revolutionaries had managed to consolidate their gains and catapult one or another leader to power. The leader of the moment now gave greater weight to business and industrial interests, and less to the mix of agrarian reformers, workers rights advocates, and intellectuals who had made up much of the Revolution’s original backing. Under the Constitution of 1917, presidential succession brought a series of men into office, each serving one six-year term without reelection. Control under this system rested in the tenacious hands of one party, the Mexican Revolutionary Party (P.R.M). In 1946, reflecting its status as the organ of the political establishment, the party changed its name to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (P.R.I.).

Mexico’s industry had expanded during World War II, and under its first two postwar presidents, Miguel Alemán (1946-52) and Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (1952-58), the country embarked on three decades of unprecedented prosperity. Fueled partly by foreign investment, this phenomenon has been called the “Mexican miracle.” However, as Ruiz Cortines suggested on leaving office, Mexicans still faced some daunting problems in the late 1950s. Chief among them was an alarming population explosion; in less than two and a half decades Mexico’s population had more than doubled, from about 16 million in 1934 to over 32 million in 1958. Cities—in particular the rapidly growing capital, Mexico City—were hit by heavy migration from the countryside, causing Mexico’s urban population to surpass its rural population for the first time in 1960. The country’s riches continued to be concentrated in the hands of relatively few, poverty remained widespread, and many Mexicans lacked basic health care and educational opportunities. Though largely restricted to a rural context, the novel faithfully portrays these and other social problems, often from the Evertons’ only partly comprehending point of view.

In 1958 the P.R.I. selected a young left-leaning liberal, Adolfo López Mateos, as its presidential candidate. Promising to renew the party’s revolutionary social agenda, López Mateos won 90 percent of the vote (surprising some commentators, who had expected the conservative opposition party, the pro-Catholic P.A.N., to do better). The novel is set during this popular president’s tenure (1958-64), as the government moved away from a business orientation back towards providing social programs and basic services such as water and electrical power for more of Mexico’s people. Stones for Ibarra reflects these programs in its depiction of a fictional town, Loreto, whose newly installed water, electricity, and telephone lines contrast with the lack of such amenities in smaller, nearby Ibarra.


In 1906, Mexican workers at the American-owned Cartanea Consolidated Copper Company went on strike. Their grievances included lower pay than American workers performing similar jobs, and the fact that qualified Mexicans were routinely passed over for managerial or technical jobs in favor of Americans. Colonel William Greene, the company’s American owner, refused to arbitrate, and when unarmed workers tried to force their way into the company lumberyard, they were met by rifle fire, and an estimated 20-40 were killed. When further demonstrations ensued, the Mexican governor of Sonora authorized 275 Arizona rangers to enter Mexico from the United States and patrol Cananea’s streets; in the ensuing exchanges of rifle fire, several rangers and workers were killed. When the Mexican rurales (state police) arrived later, their commander oversaw the lynching of the workers’ leaders. For many Mexicans, the Cananea strike not only symbolizes America’s willingness to use force in pursuing its economic exploitation of Mexicans, but also represents the first time that Mexican workers organized to resist such exploitation.

The Novel in Focus

The plot

The novel opens as Richard and Sara Everton, “two North Americans, a man and a woman just over and just under forty,” make their way by car through the countryside of central Mexico towards Ibarra, the “declining village of one thousand souls” where they plan to make their new home (Stones for Ibarra, p. 1). Nearby, Richard’s grandfather had opened the Malagueña copper mine in the late nineteenth century, then had to abandon it during the Revolution of 1910. Now the couple have come “to extend the family’s Mexican history and to patch the present onto the past” by reopening the mine and fixing up the family’s once lavish adobe house:

They have experienced the terrible persuasion of a great-aunt’s recollections and adopted them as their own. They have not considered that memories are like corks left out of bottles. They swell. They no longer fit.

(Stones for Ibarra, p. 3)

The Evertons have mortgaged their home in San Francisco, taken out bank loans, and borrowed against their insurance in order to finance the project. Yet, as the reader is informed right away, their hopes for a long life together in Mexico are to be dashed the summer after they arrive, when Richard is diagnosed with leukemia and doctors tell them he has only about six years left to live.

Under the cloud of this impending tragedy, the Eventons persist with their plans, continuing to renovate the house, hiring local workers, and beginning mining operations. The village benefits from the mine’s payroll, but at first the Evertons and the villagers coexist in a haze of mutual incomprehension. “They are not people,” Sara tells herself, “but silhouettes sketched on a backdrop to deceive us into thinking the stage is crowded” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 11). For their part, the villagers are baffled by the Americans’ strange behavior: for example, the Eventons carefully plant rows of maguey cactus not for the purpose of making pulque or mescal, the popular cactus-based alcoholic beverages, but simply because they admire the way the plants look. They read separate books, and even plan to vote for different candidates in the upcoming American presidential elections. “At last the village found a word that applied to the North Americans. It was a long word, mediodisorient a do, meaning half-disoriented,” like a blindfolded child trying to hit a piñata, the paper rooster stuffed with candy commonly featured at children’s parties (Stones for Ibarra, p. 24).

Gradually, as she learns more and more Spanish, Sara begins to penetrate the villagers’ world, but always incompletely, hearing of local incidents but embroidering them in her imagination to fill out parts she hasn’t understood. In this unreliable way she (and through her, the reader) hears a number of tales, each of which is given a chapter in the novel. “The Life Sentence of José Reyes,” for example, tells the story of a village drunk who kills two brothers with his machete when they refuse to lend him money, then is stoned to death by their friends and family. Another chapter, “Kid Muñoz,” features a battered boxer who was blinded in the ring, and now sells lottery tickets on the street. Sara encounters Kid Muñoz on one of her weekly trips to Concepción, the (fictional) state capital 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Ibarra. Woven into these tales are brief notices that keep the reader up to date on Richard’s ever-impending illness. She and Richard buy supplies in Concepción, and they also receive regular reports on the progress of his disease from the medical laboratory there.

Another chapter concerns Pablo, a nine-year-old boy with mental retardation. Pablo drowns in the mine’s tailings dump (where the refuse from the smelting process is discarded). Sara hears—or concocts—an intricate plot suggesting that Pablo’s older cousin Juan, burdened by having to look after the boy, may be at least partly to blame. In much the same way, other characters are introduced to the reader, including a whole succession of priests who arrive and, for various reasons, soon depart from the small town. One is a womanizer, and another—inexplicably chased by dogs wherever he goes—is savagely bitten while praying in church. In “The Red Taxi,” Chuy Santos—“not the sort of man who would kill his two best friends in order to own a car” (at least in Sara’s imagination)—nevertheless does for a red Volkswagen beetle, which becomes Ibarra’s only taxi (Stones for Ibarra, p. 68).

Sara weaves an especially melodramatic, romantic past around Madre (Mother) Petra, an aristocratic old nun who gives Sara lessons in Spanish grammar and vocabulary. The excesses of this fantasy finally lead Sara to abandon the game:

And together with one fantasy, she renounced another. Until this moment, she had refused to consider the sort of future that included hospital rooms and nurses, that threatened emergencies and an ambulance. She had denied a whole vocabulary of words: radiation, transfusion, hemorrhage. Until today she had convinced herself that Richard might be spared them all.

(Stones for Ibarra, p. 101)

Only now, during their third year in Ibarra, does Sara slowly begin to accept the fact that her husband is going to die.

Sara begins to notice the small charms—buttons, thorns, a length of thread—that María de Lourdes, a local woman who cleans for her, conceals in various places throughout the house. Although Sara has kept Richard’s illness as secret as possible, the villagers believe he has a bad heart. When it seems especially serious, they notice, “the señora drives away by herself to place a long-distance call to the North American doctor” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 109). The villagers are skeptical of the couple’s reliance on medical science, and baffled when they reject the help of local brujos and curanderos, the folk healers of popular tradition. Yet as Richard’s illness becomes more debilitating, the local doctor, Dr. Vásquez, is called on to treat him, and Dr. Vásquez thinks to himself that “the sick man’s wife believed doctors had supernatural powers. She believed this of the American specialist and of Dr. Vásquez himself” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 149).

Up to now Richard has played along with her denial of his illness, letting her pretend they have all the time in the world in front of them, but in the fifth year he confronts her: “You’ve got to stop making things up. Stop making each day up. See it,” he tells her. She struggles to do so. When the village is visited by a Mexican family of converts to the American-style Baptist church, Sara plays in her mind with the idea of being born again:

All we would want out of being born again is this place to live and die in, as we are living and dying in it now. Then she amended her words. As Richard is dying in it now, in spite of the hematologist’s pills, in spite of me.

(Stones for Ibarra, p. 182)

In November of the last year Sara panics when Richard is taken with a bad fever, and she endures a hair-raising trip in Chuy Santos’s red taxi to fetch a doctor from Concepción. Though it is a false alarm, the reader is told now that Richard will in fact “die more than a year later in a San Francisco hospital” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 194).


Leukemia, a cancer of the blood, takes its name from Greek words meaning “white” and “blood,” and occurs when the body produces too many white blood cells and not enough red ones. Several different types of leukemia exist, and though author Harriet Doerr does not specify which type Richard Everton suffers from in Stones for Ibarra, her description fits chronic myelogenous leukemia, which most often strikes adults in their forties, as Richard Everton is in the novel. Symptoms include weight loss and weakness, so the novel appropriately describes Richard as thin and occasionally exhausted. His visits to the medical lab in Concepción are to learn the results of blood tests; fewer white cells in the blood means good news for leukemia sufferers. In the 1960s, radiation treatment, which Richard receives in the novel, was commonly used to kill the white blood cells. Doctors since then have relied more heavily on chemotherapy, the selective use of highly toxic drugs, to do so. The disease is still considered incurable. Like the novel’s Richard, most victims can expect to live no more than five to ten years, though, in many cases, chemotherapy can extend the remaining life span by several years or more.

The narrative skips ahead to a month after Richard’s death, as Sarah returns to Ibarra. Meeting with the Canadian geologist who has assisted Richard in the past, she learns that the mine is just “beginning to show what it’s worth” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 203). But the reader never learns what becomes of the mine. Preparing to move back to San Francisco, Sara dismisses the villagers who have helped her with domestic chores and closes up the house. She sends her belongings north in a moving van that successfully negotiates the ancient gate to the house. By the gate Sara notices a pile of stones, which a villager tells her have been left to commemorate a fatal accident on the road. As the novel closes, she sees two villagers passing by and feels an urge to call to them, “Stop for a minute. Look through these gates and see the lighted house. An accident has happened here. Remember the place. Bring stones” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 214).


Next to Mexico’s predominant Roman Catholic faith, which reflects its Spanish colonial heritage, are older folk beliefs from pre-Columbian times that exist side-by-side with Catholic practices and doctrines. Stones for Ibarra acknowledges this coexistence when a local priest leads the villagers in a rain dance, a procession that moves from the town’s plaza to a chapel outside of town, where the priest “will conduct a service and pray for rain” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 109). Other folk beliefs reflected in the novel include the shamanistic practices of curanderos (healers) and brujos (sorcerors), who combine an often sophisticated knowledge of herbal and other traditional remedies with what many believe to be supernatural powers. Curanderos and brujos often ingest hallucinogens such as mescal and jimson weed (both grown as ornamental plants by the novel’s Evertons) to enter a trancelike state that helps them determine how to treat an illness. Among Mexico’s poor, the traditional treatments of curanderos and brujos are often all one can afford.

A literary reflection of cultural fatalism

While Stones for Ibarra presents a number of cultural contrasts between the villagers and the North Americans, the novel’s central movement concerns Sara’s slow awakening to the fatalism that rules the villagers’ lives:

Believing as they did in a relentless providence, the people of Ibarra, daily and without surprise, met their individual dooms. They accepted as inevitable the hail on the ripe corn, the vultures at the heart of the starved cow, the stillborn child.

(Stones for Ibarra, p. 113)

As she gradually perceives the “relentless providence” that resigns the villagers to their often violent fates, Sara also learns to accept her own destiny, • which is to suffer the bereavement of Richard’s inevitable death.

In an influential book about his culture, The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950; in Spanish) Mexican author Octavio Paz distinguishes Mexican attitudes to death from those found elsewhere: “The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it” (Paz, p. 57). A well-known example is the Mexican holiday called Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which coincides with the North American holiday Halloween. Whereas Halloween’s associations with the dead have become almost entirely symbolic, the Mexican Day of the Dead continues to represent a meaningful chance for people to commune with dead family members and friends.

Paz traces Mexicans’ special intimacy with death to the Aztec culture of pre-Columbian times, and to that culture’s characteristic fatalism, its belief that fate predetermines all events and they cannot be changed. It is in fact this fatalism, say some, that resigned the Aztecs to the idea of conquest, and thus allowed the Spanish Conquistadors to overcome Aztec culture in the first place. Paz goes on to contrast the richly historic Mexican conception of death not only with other cultures, but with a modern “philosophy of progress” that he claims encourages a need to deny death’s very existence:

Everything in the modern world functions as if death did not exist. Nobody takes it into account, it is suppressed everywhere: in political pronouncements, commercial advertising, public morality, and popular customs; in the promise of cut-rate health and happiness offered to all of us by the hospitals, drug-stores and playing fields.

(Paz, p. 57)

Sara, the modern North American, clings to precisely such a “promise of cut-rate health and happiness” before finally yielding to the villagers’ traditional “relentless providence.” In this sense, by accepting fate, Sara and Richard (whose outlook has always been more fatalistic than his wife’s) do indeed fulfill their ultimate aim: “to extend the family’s Mexican history and to patch the present onto the past” (Stones for Ibarra, p. 3).

Sources and literary context

While Stones for Ibarra’s plot is fictional, Harriet Doerr lived in Mexico for fifteen years with her husband, spending some of that time in a small village on which she modeled the village of Ibarra. Similarly, Doerr’s observations of Mexican life in general provided the basis for the cultural contrasts that run


Mexican CultureNorth American CultureReflections of the Two Cultures
Shows strong sense of history, with a living past.Less identification with the past than with the present.Historical events such as the Revolution of 1910 are often mentioned as if they occurred just recently.
Often values emotions over reason; more readily turns to nonscientific.Usually values reason over emotion; turns most often to scientific solutionsThe Evertons appear overly rational and emotionally cold to the more intuitive and passionate villagers. Sara denies the effectiveness of charms, yet seems to find solace in them.
Stresses loyalty to family, relies on family first for help.Stresses self-reliance; Americans use public: institutions for help.The Evertons get bank loans for their mine; villagers {e.g. Chuy Santos with auto) try family, friends, acquaintances for loans. While readers never hear about Richard’s or Sara’s families, they learn all about (hose of the villagers.
Tends to be Catholic and patriarchal.Tends to be Protestant or secular and have a greater degree of gencfer equality.The secular Evertons often appear next to priests in thestory. Mexican women (who as Sara notes, just won the right to vote in 1954, a few years before the story takes place) vote as their husbands dictate; voting separately for different candidates fas the Evertons do) seems silly to the villagers.

through the novel. For the vanished world of the Díaz era’s American expatriate community, Do-err could rely upon literary accounts such as Charles Flandrau’s well known Viva Mexico! (1908), a portrait of Mexican life in the early 1900s from an American traveler’s point of view. Viva Mexico! includes an amusing depiction of American expatriates, and in Stones for Ibarra Do-err mentions Flandrau’s classic book as being on the Everton’s shelves.

Doerr has been compared with other English-speaking writers who have written about Mexico, such as Katherine Anne Porter (American, 1890-1980) and Graham Greene (English, 1904-91), both of whom she includes among her major influences. Porter’s writing career began after she traveled to Mexico in 1920, and her first published story, “María Concepción” (1923) is set there, as are several others. Greene visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the persecution of the Catholic Church. Out of his trip came the non-fiction account The Lawless Roads (1939) and a novel, The Power and the Glory (1940), which follows a drunken priest who is hunted down in the anticlerical atmosphere of revolutionary Mexico. Doerr’s writing has also evoked comparisons with another writer whom she acknowledges as a strong influence, the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez (1928-). García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; also in Literature and Its Times), blends fact with magical events to describe life in a small, decaying, fictional Colombian village.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Was Written

Political and economic turbulence

The popular López Mateos’s term as president expired in 1964, and the P.R.I. selected a relatively conservative government minister named Gustavo Díaz Ordaz as his successor. Historians have generally deemed it an unfortunate choice, for like many other nations, Mexico experienced student unrest during the turbulent 1960s, and Díaz Or-daz’s harsh reactions only fanned the flames of the demonstrators’ dissatisfaction. As Mexico City prepared to host the 1968 Summer Olympics, the city experienced a summer of escalating confrontations between students and police. On October 2, about 5,000 students were demonstrating peacefully in the Plaza of the Three Cultures in the district of Tlatelolco. Police arrived, armed with machine guns and backed by army tanks, and when the shooting ended—accounts disagree on whether police or demonstrators fired first—an estimated several hundred student demonstrators had been killed. The Tlatelolco massacre remains a leading national tragedy for Mexicans, one that for many marked the beginning of a growing distrust towards the P.R.I, and the government.

Under President José López Portillo (1976-82) Mexico developed vast oil reserves and enjoyed the economic benefits of the 1970s’ high energy costs. Oil replaced mining as Mexico’s largest revenue producer, but falling oil prices in the early 1980s brought the Mexican economy close to collapse. In 1982, when Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado assumed the presidency, Mexico faced high unemployment, mounting national debt, and staggering rates of inflation. American-dominated foreign financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, assumed much of the responsibility for steering Mexico out of the crisis—but they demanded greater control of Mexico’s domestic economic policies as well. By the mid-1980s—as during the Díaz era—many Mexicans once again felt that control over their future lay in the hands of others, and particularly in the hands of their powerful northern neighbors.


Stones for Ibarra was published to wide critical acclaim, winning the American Book Award for first fiction in 1984 and the National Book Award in 1985, as well as numerous other awards. Critics uniformly praised Doerr’s depiction of the interactions between the Evertons and the villagers, as well as her spare and understated literary style. Calling the novel “intelligent, honest,” and “a masterpiece,” Ruth Doan MacDougall wrote in The Christian Science Monitor that despite its “terrible poignancy” Stones for Ibarra “never becomes sentimental. The writing is as shaded with nuance and as shining with clarity as the Ibarra landscape” (MacDougall, p. B6). Like Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post Book World, many critics noted the first-time author’s relatively advanced age, and agreed that Stones for Ibarra is “no mere novelty” and that “Harriet Doerr has mastered the art of fiction to a degree that would be remarkable in almost any writer of any age” (Yardley, p. 3).

In the New York Times Book Review, Leslie Marmon Silko praised Doerr’s “distinctive vision” but found fault with the author for excluding the relationship between the Evertons from her field of focus: “We never see nor hear much more about the intimate life of Sara and Richard than the villagers manage to glean by standing outside the Evertons’ windows … and herein lies the chief flaw in this novel” (Silko, p. 80). Ann Hul-bert in The New Republic, however, found Doerr’s unconventional treatment of the Evertons relationship to be a strength, calling it “unexpectedly but effectively mysterious” and contrasting it with the “strange and violent sagas” of the villagers’ lives, which “we hear in full” through “Sara’s vivid extrapolations” (Hulbert, p. 40).

—Colin Wells

For More Information

Condon, John C Good Neighbors: Communicating with the Mexicans. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 1985.

Doerr, Harriet. Stones for Ibarra. New York: Penress, 1985.

Foster, Lynn V. A Brief History of Mexico. New York: Facts On File, 1997.

Flandrau, Charles Macomb. Viva Mexico! Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1964.

Hall, Edward. Beyond Culture. Garden City, New York: Anchor, 1977.

Hulbert, Ann. “Visitations,” in The New Republic 190, no. 4 (30 January 1984):40-41.

MacDougall, Ruth Doan. “For Richer, For Poorer …” in The Christian Science Monitor, 6 January 1984, B6.

Meyer, Michael C., and William L. Sherman. The Course of Mexican History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Paz, Octavio. The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico. New York: Grove, 1961.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. “Pablo, Domingo, Richard and Sara,” in New York Times Book Review, 8 January 1984, 8.

Yardley, Jonathan. “Mexican Escape: Patching the Present onto the Past,” in The Washington Post Book World, 25 December 1983, 3.