Scissors, Paper, Rock
Pocket / Washington Square
“Memory, love, grief, death and desire: these are the stuff of Fenton Johnson’s . . . powerfully moving novel.”
— The New York Times Book Review
For the first time since he left his birthplace in Kentucky for San Francisco, Raphael Hardin has returned home alone. Before, he had always brought men with him on his visits, lovers with whom his mother had been “civil, even flirtatious,” while his father retreated into his sacred woodshop. Now his mother has died and, at age thirty-six, Raphael has come back to see his dying father, who knows and disapproves of Raphael’s boyfriends but who is unaware that this, his youngest child, may be ill as well.
Raphael’s halting, often painful attempt to reconcile with his father forms the centerpiece of Fenton Johnson’s astonishing novel. At times funny, at times heartbreakingly poignant, Scissors, Paper, Rock explores with wisdom and humor the many kinds of family, the infinite varieties of love.
Through the intricately interwoven stories of the Hardin parents and children, Scissors, Paper, Rock contrasts the families we inherit — our blood ties — with the families we choose, our partners in love and our friends.
What Others Say
“Scissors, Paper, Rock is a book of insight and honest love; it has the lyricism of family legend, and the dead-on truthful ring of a report from the trenches. Fenton Johnson has made something wonderful here.”
— Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
“The emotional power of Scissors, Paper, Rock resides on a plot of land in Kentucky . . . [It] chronicles the courtships, the births, the deaths and the agonizing disappointments of two generations of the Hardins of Strang Knob . . . Scissors, Paper, Rock is a seductive rumination on the ways that memory can torment or soothe, and sometimes do both at the same time.”
— San Francisco Chronicle
“Read the eleven brief pieces of this brilliant novel and you’ll never again hear its title phrase without feeling chills . . . Emotional jolts lurk on every page . . . Every few pages you’ll pause, realizing you’ve just read one of the best paragraphs you’ve ever come across. Yes, the book’s about dying, but in the same way that birthday parties are about growing old.”
— Entertainment Weekly
“A deeply affecting novel about families and loss . . .”
— Philadelphia Inquirer