The Stone Angel is Margaret Laurence’s first novel in her Manawaka series. It is a touching story of Hagar Shipley’s reflections of her journey trying to gain independence and respect in a small Canadian prairie town. Now a woman in her nineties living with her son Marvin and his wife Doris, she is still as querulous and proud as she was as a young woman. She struggles with the inevitable physical ravages of old age, of her life-long pride that never allowed her to open herself to anyone. She rebels against her strict, judgemental parent who only believed in ‘hard work’ and ‘tough love’, yet she herself becomes just as demanding and disapproving with her husband and two sons. She realizes at the end of her life that she has made mistakes and hurt the people she loved the most. It is at her weakest hour that that she reaches out to the son who has always been there for her regardless of how she ignored him. When he refers to her as ‘a holy terror’, she ‘feels like it is more than’ she ‘could now reasonably have expected out of life, for he has spoken with such anger and such tenderness.’
The Stone Angel is a significant work of masterful prose and unforgettable characters. After reading this ... you will never again visit a home for the elderly without thinking of the anguish of Hagar Shipley.