Brac author nets top literary prize

Kathleen Bodden-Harris with her award and story protagonists Lenny the Land Crab and Sarge the Soldier Crab.

Brac author Kathleen Bodden-Harris is finally enjoying a well-needed break and some well-deserved time to celebrate.

In the midst of a jam-packed month of coordinating Earth Month events on the Brac, Ms. Bodden-Harris learned that her 2010 book, “Quest on the Marl Road” had won first prize at the inaugural Cayman Islands Literary Awards held on April 23 at the George Town Public Library.

Due to her hectic schedule, Ms. Bodden-Harris was unable to attend the ceremony, as she had already committed to the National Trust’s Dinner in the Dark event that evening. Simone Scott accepted the award on Ms. Bodden-Harris’s behalf.

The awards featured eight categories – Inspirational/Family, Biography/Memoir, Devotional, Poetry, Non-Fiction, Fiction, Fantasy, and Children’s, with the top selections entered in the finals, and the overall winner earning the Book of the Year designation.

Describing the origins of the book, Ms. Bodden-Harris cited her passion for conservation for initiating her first foray into writing.

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“As I would walk, hike, ride my bike, or just sit on my deck or porch, I observed the world of nature around me,” she said.

“The book is a vehicle to express my concerns regarding the haphazard leaps in development that seems to be more a cancerous growth left unchecked. The brown booby birds roost and nest atop the bluff in my backyard and the surrounding areas. Land crabs and soldier crabs share my property and thrive on the organic waste I toss to them.

“I’m watching generations of Brac rock iguanas live and transit the common grounds my home is built on. Even the spiritual walk I built in my backyard, the labyrinth, the iguanas seem to understand to be a special space. I walk the path and they relax on the stones or path as if to show me it’s important to them as well.

“Add the unique personalities of the characters I call friends and acquaintances who have been injected into the animal cast, and the book is a perfect reflection of life in the Brac.”

The book, she explained, gives a voice to the animals to convey their concerns and fears for their future, with humans depicted as an invasive spirit conquering and manipulating the environment for their own devices.

“They lack foresight to see how the web of life is so easily dissolved as the last strands cleave to the wilderness,” said Ms. Bodden-Harris. In the book, the iguanas act as the Brac’s elders, and the lighthouse is able to impart knowledge to the book’s crab heroes about humans and their motivations.

“‘Quest on the Marl Road’ became like an obsession to write,” said Ms. Bodden-Harris. “It took me exactly one month to complete my first draft of the book. My publisher pressed me to get the book to market before tourist season.”

Ms. Bodden-Harris says a sense of urgency drove her to start weaving her experiences into tales and spin them together to produce a book that would call the readers to recognize the need for a “call to action.”

“In the past six years since the book was first published, I’ve watched my tale transcend from fantasy to fact,” she said.

“We live in a circle of life – once the bonds that preserve what is good and natural are broken, there is no fixing and no amount of [retrospection] will make it better again. This is the compulsion that drives me on to finish the series.”

Ms. Bodden-Harris said the book was originally written as a stand-alone work, but she learned the characters had developed a fan base over the years. Since the ending is ambiguous, readers were asking her to resolve some of the unanswered questions, and she says a second book is in the works.

She says the act of writing, though she had never done it before, proved quite easy.

“Immersing [myself] in my Caymanian heritage seemed to conjure skills I’d never practiced before. I love reading, and my Caymanian parents made sure I explored the natural wonders of the U.S. with them when I was young,” she said. “I enjoyed working with my children as youngsters and taking them out in the natural world to experience outdoor life. I’m now a grandmother, so it’s my duty to pass on my island heritage and respect of wildlife to the next generation, and inspire the youth of this island nation to nurture nature and practice good stewardship of the natural beauty and resources [with] which we as Caymanians have been richly blessed.”

Ms. Bodden-Harris added that she saw the book as a useful tool for visitors to “complete the vacation picture,” opening up their eyes to the Brac’s environmental issues.

“Whilst enjoying the tale, you’ll be getting an education,” she said.

“In [the Brac’s] small dense coastal wetlands, jagged bluffs and quays, rocky and sandy shores, splits, caves and forests are rare gems needing protection and conservation efforts to keep them in perpetuity. They, and the surrounding seas, deserve our respect. These three tiny islands we call home are our responsibility to champion and guard, [as] they will be missed sorely when they are gone.”

The audio book is currently available only on Cayman Brac. “Quincy Brown did a wonderful job narrating the story. His rich baritone voice and quick-witted animated characterizations added a whole new dimension to the story with his colloquial quips and native dialects,” said Ms. Bodden-Harris.

“Locals and longtime residents will quickly recognize native friends and acquaintances in the voices of the cast members.”

The hard copy is available on Grand Cayman in shops including Book Nook, Books & Books, the shops at the National Gallery, the National Museum, the National Trust, Pedro St. James, the Botanic Park and the Turtle Farm, and at Owen Roberts Airport. In Cayman Brac, it is sold at the Treasure Chest’ Also available on Amazon, “Quest on the Marl Road” will be available in e-book form and at large bookstores in the U.S. later this year.

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