A host of animal characters leads readers through heartwarming tales and tribulations in “Quest on the Marl Road,” written by local author Kathleen Bodden-Harris. The book, the author’s first novel, was initially published in 2011, but the development of the book into a series entitled “Children of the Bluff” has led to renewed interest for this revised reissue, prompting the author to host a book signing earlier this month at Books & Books.
Bodden-Harris’s book is set in Cayman Brac and is written from the point of view of its animal and geological inhabitants. Aimed at children up to aged 18, the story follows the quest of “Lenny” the land crab and “Sarge” the soldier crab to save their island from the destructive effects of human inhabitants. A supporting cast of animals, set against the backdrop of the geologically-diverse Brac, adds more depth to the book. All aspects combine to create an enjoyable story of adventure, with a strong message of conservation and environmental awareness.
”Quest on the Marl Road was explicitly written to bring recognition to the plight of the terrestrial creatures and features of the island,” explained Bodden-Harris. “In our zeal to promote the ‘cash cow industry’ of diving, habitats and territories for our indigenous species have been exploited, abused and ignored. I wanted this book to focus on what we had lost sight of.”
The book may be set in the Brac, but its message is applicable anywhere.
“Though the setting of The Children of the Bluff series is Cayman Brac, its theme encompasses all three sister islands reaching offshore to extend its message globally,” the author explained. “Sensitivity to our natural world and sustainable lifestyles are paramount to everyone, everywhere. We don’t inherit this world, we are endowed it.”
Through beautifully-titled chapters such as “The Seagrape’s Story,” the characters weather human impact, as well as nature’s wrath, drawing readers in to view the world through their eyes.
The book transcends the boundaries of age, with language simple enough to be understood by a child, while also being challenging enough to be enjoyed by an older audience.
“The reader should be challenged,” said Bodden-Harris, “whether a child of eight or a parent or grandparent of 80.”
Bodden-Harris’s love of Cayman, and interest in its conservation is inevitable. Her Caymanian parents, mother Evalee and sea captain father Tracey Bodden, moved to Tampa, Florida before she was born, but the family kept strong ties with Cayman. Indeed, Bodden-Harris moved back to her ancestral homeland as an adult, settling on the quieter island of the Brac.
“It resonated a familiar and quaint lifestyle,” says Bodden-Harris. “Inevitably, I found my little dream home and the nature of the island introduced itself and embraced me.”
This dream home is a stilt house nestled between the bluff and the sea, from where the self-confessed “avid animal and nature lover,” has panoramic views of the landscape and its non-human inhabitants. The homemade labyrinth in her garden, and many of the species that visit it, are featured in her book.
Bodden-Harris volunteers with the National Trust, aiming to educate others and aid in the conservation and preservation of Cayman’s natural and cultural treasures.
“These books are providing the occasion to extend my contribution to their causes, as well as highlight the ambitions of those who have sought and continue fighting to bring conservation efforts to the forefront of our government, community and educational process,” she said.
An audio form of the book is due to be completed in a few weeks, with comedian and actor Quincy Brown lending his voice as narrator.
“This format, along with his rich baritone voice and assorted colloquial dialects, adds local affiliation and spice to the tales,” said Bodden-Harris. “He was the perfect candidate to bring life to the audible version. He blends varieties of regional dialects, along with expat accents, adding a robust flavor to the recipe.”
While Bodden-Harris struggled to pigeon hole her book into a strict genre during the writing process, the production of the audio version caused intensive re-reading, leading to the realization that it was “the matrix of a contemporary myth.” Due to her love and admiration of American mythologist Joseph Campbell, this was hardly surprising.
“The book educates, utilizes facts to entertain, stirs your senses, guides you to places you wouldn’t necessarily go and brings enlightenment to consciousness,” said Bodden-Harris. “All the elements are there for a modern myth. That is the true genre of The Children of the Bluff series.”
While Bodden-Harris had no intention of extending the book into a series when she began writing, the reaction of readers caused her to think otherwise. Tentatively entitled “Iguana’s Tale,” her next book will build on both the characters and messages developed in book one, Bodden-Harris explained, adding that she has found the writing process slightly different the second time around.
“Where book one only took a month to gush out of me, the challenge of the second set of adventures has been evolving for the past two years. I wanted to make sure the stories were credible and seamless. So not only am I writing a second book, but there’s that extra attention to detail, so not too much of the first book is told, making it redundant, but keeping facts of the first storyline in order with the next.”
“Quest on the Marl Road” is stocked at Books & Books, Book Nook, The Cayman Islands Museum, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, The National Trust for the Cayman Islands, Pedro St. James, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Red Sail Sports, The Ritz-Carlton, Owen Roberts and Charles Kirkconnell airports, and Kirk Market, as well as on amazon.com.