"I had wanderlust.
As a youth I was blinded by the light and glitter I saw in other places besides my
home in New Mexico."
This is our first podcast with the talented Lynn Underwood.
Review by Bill McCloud on May 28, 2021
The First Stone (High Tide Publications, 293 pp. $12.99, paper; $5.99, Kindle) is a debut novel by Vietnam War veteran Lynn Underwood, who served with the 1st Marine Division as a radio operator and forward observer. The book’s main theme is the meaning of the word “family” in all of its configurations and ramifications. It’s a story in which a tragic secret carried home from the war in Vietnam may not even be a family’s biggest one.
This is a multi-generational story of several families spreading their influence throughout New Mexico from the 1940s through the 1970s, although the story moves into Mexico, Greece, Vietnam, and Southern California, and ends in 2004.
It begins in the mid-1930s when a teenage Mexican girl, Conchita, crosses the border from Juarez with her young child hoping for a better life. Going to work cleaning people’s homes, she gets into a secret relationship with Simon Kouris, who is making a name for himself in the construction business. Her second son, Ray, Jr., is told he will receive a family inheritance if he completes a hitch with the Marine Corps and receives an honorable discharge.
Bartolome Valles is a serious competitor of Kouris’ company. Their rivalry leads to a night of violence. Out of that night comes three deaths and a dark secret.
Zachary Martin grows up working on a farm. In 1969, he’s a Marine corporal in Vietnam. He frequently takes part in search and destroy missions, and after the death of a buddy, receives a Bronze Star for valor. But along with that medal comes a secret he carries that haunts him. Ray Kouris witnesses much of it the incident. In 1973 Martin marries Jordon Valles, a college student and the daughter of Bartolome Valles. This threatens to expose secrets that have been held for years. Redemption and forgiveness play major parts in this story and are embodied in the character of Padre Juan.
This is a novel that Underwood tells by narrowing the story until the midway point, then widening it out after that. It requires the reader to pay attention to keep up with the plot lines, but that’s not a bad thing.
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By David Cariens
Reviewed in the United States on December 15, 2020
Excellent, excellent book. The author draws on his life experiences, first being raised as an Anglo in New Mexico in the Hispanic culture, second as a Marine who served in combat in the Vietnam war, and third as a building-construction official. Underwood uses these experiences to give texture, depth, and meaning to his tale of irony, murder, redemption, and forgiveness. The book is exceptionally well written. I heartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a quality novel.
By Imad Eldurubi
Reviewed in the United States on March 21, 2021
The First Stone is an inspirational by each word, the kindness and the warmth the author has displayed are felt by each chapter of the book. It manages to be a unique story for all. More importantly, this book is a reminder that America is still a love and work story, which leads to a positive action if we are willing to accept it. The first Stone is a soul search with honesty and beauty. The author is thoughtful with a big heart that shows the human side of a man to inspire you to find the path of your own life. - Imad Y. Eldurubi
By Beth S. Bowling
Reviewed in the United States on September 11, 2020
You will thoroughly enjoy The First Stone. It is a mesmerizing double-story filled with intrigue and compassion. You will get so involved in the situations of each character you won’t want to put this book down. You are going to learn life lessons you won’t forget. I’m looking forward to Lynn’s next Book. You will too.