Looking for the Klondike Stone
Baker & Taylor
Recalls the joyful seriousness of the author's five seasons at Camp Wynakee in the Green Mountains of Vermont in the early 1960s
Blackwell North Amer
"Camp Wynakee lay in a hollow of the hills..." So begins Elizabeth Arthur's luminous memoir of her five perfect seasons at a camp called Wynakee in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont - a paean to youth, to summer and to enchanted places.
Elizabeth is in her fourth summer as a camper when we first meet her - at age ten, arriving at Wynakee in the back of her stepfather's Jeep, "dressed in new shorts, a new shirt, new sneakers and a new cap, like any pilgrim ready to be reborn." Possessed of a child's remarkable ability to endow the events of her days with symbolic significance, she is poised to make the most of every moment.
With her we enter a world where the comforting daily routine begins with "the chimes of a great brass bell ringing and ringing in waves of deep sound across the meadow and the woods " - a sound "which I never tired of hearing, and which said to me not just 'Listen,' but 'I hear you"'; where skinny-dipping with the other girls in the pond at night, the water "like black velvet stroking every neuron," is a chance to learn "the bliss of bodies, and the deep comfort of forgetting, for the time, our differences"; where a long hike to the Fire Tower on a day when "the heat lay around us like a piece of birch bark carefully cut and ready to be set to flame" may culminate in the realization that "the world itself was a kiln, and that all things, including me, were fired in it"; where on one special day each summer - Klondike Day - the counselors transform the camp into a dream of the Wild West. On Klondike Day gold-painted rocks, hundreds of them, are scattered through the hills for the campers to seek and find; one stone - and only one - is the Klondike Stone, the true treasure, whose finder, chosen by fate itself, is "cleansed, remade, newly wrought." To Elizabeth it is the emblem of the miracle of Wynakee, where a child who has known since her parents' divorce that "things you love can vanish" might experience during a few brief seasons a measure of happiness that will nourish her for a lifetime.
Light of touch, written in a style of great lyric generosity, this is a book to remind us of the joyful seriousness and awe-filled intensity of childhood. In Looking for the Klondike Stone it will be forever summer in Vermont, where the pervasive magic of a place called Wynakee is elevated to the status of myth by an extraordinary child on a quest to uncover the meaning of the world. It is destined for that small shelf of classic American memoirs that capture a time, a place, a life in which we all can find ourselves.
Recalls the joyful seriousness of the author's five seasons at Camp Wynakee in the Green Mountains of Vermont in the early 1960s. By the author of Island Sojourn. 15,000 first printing. $15,000 ad/promo.
New York : Knopf, 1993
321 p. ; 22 cm