By: Jim Herod
Reviewed by: Katherine Henderson
Thanks to his grandfather’s secret DNA experiments, Wesley Stone has fathered a new and improved version of the human race—a strain of humanity mysterious government forces are determined to destroy. Driven into hiding, members of this new race, most of whom have never met Wesley, desire to learn about their founding father, “the new Adam,” and bond together to ensure the survival of the species. In Jim Herod’s Gathering Moss, Thomas Stone, Wesley’s son, though not by blood, has collected scattered pieces of Wesley’s life story in order to help his family understand their father and the responsibility they share as his descendents.
In this uncovering of Wesley Stone’s past, one finds the heart of Gathering Moss and the title’s significance. Wesley may have fathered a new branch of the human race, but the book is at heart an exploration of a more specific aspect of fatherhood: failed fatherhood. Beginning in a Reagan-era South, Gathering Moss follows Wesley Stone from childhood to adulthood as he moves from missing to resenting his absent father and eventually struggling against becoming an absent father himself. Wesley doesn’t want to be a rolling stone; he wants to gather moss.
In Gathering Moss, retired math and science professor Jim Herod has written a work which spans multiple genres, beginning as a coming of age tale with the recounting of Wesley’s childhood hijinks, travails, and adolescent sexual awakenings before launching into the fast-paced world of college track competitions and the perils of shark-infested waters and Iraqi war zones. Wesley Stone’s life eventually calms somewhat as he pursues a life with his wife and children and a career as an innovative researcher and professor, but in Herod’s final suspenseful pages, set in the near future, Gathering Moss is reminiscent of conspiracy theory films and television crime shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Jim Herod’s storytelling is at its best when it evokes laughter, sympathy, or suspense. Though Gathering Moss is sometimes marred by stilted, artificial dialogue and awkward grammar and style, Herod’s portrayals of the childhood agonies of churchgoing in the South and socializing with the opposite sex are as hilariously true to life as his descriptions of growing up with a mostly absent father are heartbreaking. Sept 2008
Katherine Henderson is a graduate student at the University of Montevallo.