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Stones for Ibarra

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,872 Ratings  ·  239 Reviews
Two Americans, Richard and Sara Everton, are the only foreigners in Ibarra. They live among people who both respect and misunderstand them, and gradually, the villagers--at first enigmas to the Evertons--come to teach them much about life and the relentless tide of fate.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 8th 1985 by Penguin Books (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mary Lynn Hendrickson
This is one of a handful of books that I always buy used in order to give away to people. What I liked best about it (as well as her "Consider this, Senora") as the poetic prose. Not too heavy, not too light. Not too flowery, not too sparse. Just right. Musical in a sense, but not obviously so. The kind of writing that's more a window than a door to help you see the beauty and sacredness that's inherent in "everyday life."

What I especially liked in "Stones," however, was the very artful way -- s
Aug 19, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing
I actually thought about how much I love this author when I picked the name Harriet for our daughter. Very nice voice in her writing.
Feb 18, 2010 Nina rated it really liked it
Shelves: grown-up
You should read this book even if it's not really your kind of thing. A couple, one just over 40 and the other just under, move from the Bay Area to rural Mexico to start up the husband's old family mine. The book feels more like a collection of short stories than a novel. The language is lyrical without being gushing and Jake will be happy to know that Doerr never dips into magical realism. There might be odd coincidences and an oddly humorous but sad bit in which an old priest is followed arou ...more
Jan 02, 2009 Sera rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction, own
I struggled with the rating for this book, because it probably deserves 5 stars. However, I as the reader had a little difficulty putting everything together so that the lower rating more likely represents a deficiency on my part instead of a commentary on the book itself.

Nevertheless, this book is beautifully written, because the rhythm is very lyrical in nature. It's about a couple who move to Mexico in the 1960s to re-establish a mine that the husband's grandfather had abandoned in 1910. The
May 25, 2011 Emily rated it did not like it
It feels like assigned reading for a high school English class. Like it is probably good for me somehow but I'm just not getting it. I didn't connect to any of the stories or characters. My favorite part was being done.
Jennifer Hughes
Sep 07, 2012 Jennifer Hughes rated it liked it
I read this at the request of someone who has taught it for years and thinks it's all that. For me it was a mixed bag. The prose is elegant and almost deceptively simple. So why not 5 stars?

Each chapter is basically a stand-alone story. It's kind of a patchwork of all of these stories of different characters and situations and how they all come together to make up this small Mexican town Ibarra. Where I got hung up is that is that I never had the drive to pick up the book and see what was going
Phyllis Gauker
Jul 06, 2014 Phyllis Gauker rated it it was amazing
This is truly a wonderful book if you have any interest in other cultures. The story is about an American couple who move, sight unseen (except in old photographs), from California to a tiny village 80 kilometers from the nearest big town in Mexico to attempt to revise a mine which had been started by his grandfather. I loved the intimacy of the couple, his tolerating her making up stories about the people from the few facts at hand, her refusal to deal with his doctor's prediction of only 6 mor ...more
Aug 18, 2011 Sana rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Stones for Ibarra is one of those books which should be read at least once in life. I thought that I will like this book as much as I like To Kill a Mockingbird or Frankenstein but I just couldn't. However, what made Stones for Ibarra a rediscovery of life for the Evertons was the division of chapters in stories of the people of Ibarra. If nothing else, Ibarra isn't one of those honest-to-God small towns in far off rural Mexico.

While the community of Ibarra, from the cura to Remediosa Acostas,
usa couple move back to rural mexico to re-open their grandparents copper mine (shut down by the revolution of 1910?)
authors first novel, won national book award. she was about 60 when she wrote it.

about small town life in mexico, and ever present death, dancing with your melancholy self.
Tracy Staton
Feb 04, 2008 Tracy Staton rated it liked it
I read this book right after Death Comes for the Archbishop, a very old book with a similar structure of short stories embedded in a longer narrative, and right before Sacred Games, a brand new book (up for the NBCC this year) with the same. All very different books, though, which to me shows the versatility of this technique. I loved, loved, loved the Willa Cather book and only really really liked this one, though, I think because this novel was primarily atmospheric. I liked sinking into its w ...more
Betsy Fasbinder
Mar 19, 2011 Betsy Fasbinder rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book...people I trust tout it as their favorite, but I just didn't. Perhaps it's the disjointed nature of the stories, but I just couldn't get involved with any of the characters. The writing has some beautiful little gems along the way--exquisite when you find them--but I'm not sure I found them worth the digging. Perhaps if I'd "gotten it" earlier that this was not a single story, but a series of barely connected stories, I might have enjoyed it more. I kept trying to tie ...more
Elizabeth Marro
Jun 18, 2016 Elizabeth Marro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Stones for Ibarra
by Harriet Doerr (1983)

I’ve read this novel four times and each time have fallen a little more in love with it. Doerr renders the most ordinary moments extraordinary, simply by choosing them the way she would one stone among many, and lifting it to the light so we can really see it. The novel follows Richard and Sara Everton who leave all they know in San Francisco to reopen a mine in rural Mexico fifty years after it was abandoned by Richard’s grandfather. We learn in the openi
Jun 13, 2016 Alisha rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miguel Soto
"Eso depende de si usted quiere vivir en Concepción, la capital, que tiene catedral, parques, bancos y Woolworth, o si quiere vivir en Ibarra", contestaba Sara Everton a una compatriota norteamericana que le preguntaba si en la entidad donde Sara vivía las cosas iban mejor que con ella.

Una pareja de norteamericanos, los únicos dos gringos en el pequeñísimo poblado, que incluso ahora es casi un pueblo fantasma, con el sueño descabellado de revivir la mina de los antepasados de Richard. La mina p
Apr 26, 2015 Ted rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-s-works
This novel is probably well worth a read. But I've read it, and even though I remember nothing about it, and it's short, I'm getting rid of it.

It was the winner of the "American Book Award" (whatever that is) in 1984, so I probably read it thirty years ago. The blurb on the back quotes the NYT: "A very good novel indeed, with echoes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Katherine Anne Porter, and even even Graham Greene". Pretty good company!
Nov 26, 2015 Monica rated it liked it
Stones for Ibarra is not the type of book that would have normally caught my attention; I chose it for the Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge as "A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65." That being said, I was not disappointed. Doerr's novel is a string of interrelated and beautiful vignettes that follow a Californian couple as they start a new life in the Mexican village of Ibarra--strangers in a strange land. The narration is mostly Sarah Everton's inner thoughts as she str ...more
Dec 22, 2014 Dee rated it it was ok
What is the fuss about? I read this for my book group and am feeling pretty neutral about it. Yes, it is well-written. In fact the beauty of the language was the only thing that kept me going (that and the length -at 214 pages, it's a pretty quick read!) And I suppose if I were considering leading the life of an ex pat in Mexico, I might find it of interest. But the stories of the townspeople that intersperse the book were spare, and left more questions than they answered. And I never felt that ...more
Apr 09, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
This novel is special in its language and understated theme. It is much more difficult to say so much in so few words than to use too many words. Not enough contemporary authors are able to do this. The nuance of emotion and events are communicated as the reader fills in what isn't explicitly stated. Richard will die of leukemia within 6 years. We know this from the beginning when he and Sara move to Mexico to reopen his family's copper mine. They have no clue what they are doing and know nothin ...more
Jan 21, 2016 Katewood16 rated it it was amazing
A second read of an all-time favorite, and it's just as beautiful as I remember. Doerr seems to have been one of the first to write a collection of short stories (more accurately described as portraits) with a unifying thread. In some respects, the story holds the potential for cliche - affluent, naive Americans move to remote Mexican village to find new life and new meaning and find themselves changed in ways they could not have foreseen. But in Doerr's capable hands, the moralizing is merely o ...more
Apr 03, 2015 Pascale rated it liked it
This is a lovely and quietly affecting book. Although some readers apparently found it too episodic for their taste, such wasn't the case for me. What I did find a bit unsatisfying was how shadowy one of the 2 central characters, Richard Everton, remains throughout. Arguably the focus of the book is his wife's anticipation of his death, and her efforts to prepare herself for premature widowhood. Nonetheless, the book would have been richer if the author had seen fit to deal with the contrast bet ...more
Jul 13, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it
I don't really know how to review this book, but I just say that I couldn't stop thinking about it. The main character came to Ibarra, thinking she could change things, but found that she was the one who changed.
Kate Fitzgerald
Aug 06, 2016 Kate Fitzgerald rated it it was ok
This is a book of short stories, all about people who live in a very small town in Mexico. There are two main characters, and you're told in the first few pages, among other spoilers, that one of them dies in a couple years and the other leaves the town after that, so you have no interest in "what happens".

The short stories are either directly related to the couple or are stories they've heard about other people in the town. You don't get to know anyone personally, and the stories are not that
Dec 30, 2015 Jen added it
SERIOUSLY struggling with this book. One of the reviews says it's like reading a book assigned for high school english, and I can totally relate.
Debbie Zapata
Mar 14, 2015 Debbie Zapata rated it it was amazing
Shelves: saturday
Lovely book.
Dec 20, 2013 Callie rated it it was ok
Reading this book was like climbing an endless dusty, sandy, duney sand dune. Reading this book reminded me of when I took multicultural american lit in college. I knew the writing was decent, even lovely, much of it, but it wasn't for me. It was a chore. The book is largely episodic and the episodes just aren't that compelling. I felt like Doerr was holding me at a distance. Her prose is spare and elegant, but coming off the passion of Elena Ferrante (I had just read My Brilliant Friend) I felt ...more
Jul 24, 2012 Bonnie rated it it was amazing

Harriet Doerr finished her degree from Stanford at the age of 67 and received The National Book Award for her novel “Stones for Ibarra” in 1984 at the age of 73; talk about your late bloomer. From what I can gather, she did everything very deliberately and with painstaking effort. It’s said that when writing, she wrote little more than a sentence a day, meticulously crafting each sentence with the utmost care. And when reading her novel one can’t help seeing the result of her precision. If you e
Jan 01, 2013 Sally rated it really liked it
A story of American expatriates in Mexico in the 1960s. The Mexicans are as curious to the Americans as the Americans are to the Mexicans of the small town they all share (Ibarra). Much of the book consists of short stories, usually grim or pathetic with none-too-likeable characters, about different members of the community. These loose threads are tied together with the story of the expatriates, the Evertons, and their experiences in Ibarra during the six years they live there.

The Evertons see
Jun 29, 2011 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 3rd time I have read this book. There is something about it that draws me back. Maybe it is the list of items at the bottom. I'll probably read it again in a few years.

It is the story of a 40 year old couple who move to Mexico to open a defunct copper-silver mine that had been mined 50 years previously by a grandfather. The story is of the people in the small village of Ibarra as told through the eyes of Sara Everton. Her husband, Richard, has been diagnosed with some sort of blood d
Feb 03, 2011 Leta-Kaye rated it really liked it
Although the plot is simple -- an American couple reopening a family mine in a small Mexican village -- "Stones for Ibarra" invokes layers of meaning. More than anything, this is a story about stories. While Richard works his grandfather's mine and waits for leukemia to claim his life, Sara builds her own reality from the will-power of denial and her interpretation of the tragic tales of the village. Where missing facts and her minimal Spanish leave gaps, Sara fills in and embellishes with her i ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Alison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grad-school
Fabulous book. It reads so fast, just absolutely addictive. It's one of those books I just couldn't put down; I had to know what was going to happen. I look forward to rereading it to see the little things I might have missed.

I really liked the structure. You could pick out the individual chapters as short stories; they would make sense, would be impactful, outside of the book as a whole. But they were even better together. I really liked the point of view, close in to Sara Everton. I also reall
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Harriet Doerr (April 8, 1910 – November 24, 2002) was an American author whose debut novel was published at the age of 74.

A granddaughter of California railroad magnate and noted collector of art and rare books, Henry Edwards Huntington, Doerr grew up in a Pasadena, California, family that encouraged intellectual endeavors. She enrolled in Smith College in 1927, but transferred to Stanford Univers
More about Harriet Doerr...

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“They have not considered that memories are like corks left out of bottles. They swell. They no longer fit.” 15 likes
“It is something they will see everywhere - a disregard for danger, a companionship with death. By the end of a year they will know it well: the antic bravado, the fatal games, the coffin shop beside the cantina, the sugar skulls on the frosted cake.” 4 likes
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