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STANLEY

JAMES

By  CLYDE  HENRY

If you can imagine Huckleberry Finn crossed with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, then you have a sense of what Stanley James has to offer. This satirically humorous, occasionally dark, but always intensely human novel will trigger every familiar emotion and may even awaken some that are dormant. It is so engaging that it comes with a warning, but few readers will be able to stop reading before they are swept away and changed by this incredible story of a learning disabled boy.


Stanley James is born December 21, 1950, in Alexandria, Minnesota, where progress is an article of faith, and the new middle class lives in homogenous homes on tree-named streets. Marring the optimism of this small town are whispers of damaged children, of inappropriate miracles and of other unmentionable imperfections. One of the flawed children is Stanley James, another is the narrator. They and a number of other kids are imperfect children - damaged little souls that don’t quite meet the expectations of this idyllic small town. At Saint Mary’s Catholic school they are gathered up, labeled “retarded,” and neatly packed away in the Ungraded Room, where they are entrusted to Sister Mary Ann. Like the God of the Old Testament, Sister Mary Ann is powerful, aloof and dedicated to justice. She will never punish a child who doesn’t deserve it, but she will never miss an opportunity to do so.


While Stanley James and the boys smoke stolen cigarettes in secret places, they try to solve theological, ethical, and pragmatic problems. Though their speech is simplistic, the conversations provide profound and disturbing insights into complex spiritual issues. Surely many of Stanley’s thought are heretical, but are they more coherent than society's orthodox truths?