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Many Stones by Carolyn Coman

4Q-4P (ages 13-16)
Coman, Carolyn. Many Stones. Asheville, NC: Frontstreet, 2000. 158 pages.

When Berry Morgan’s sister Laura was murdered while volunteering in Cape Town in South Africa, her absent father suddenly reappeared and began running the show. A year and a half has passed since Laura’s death, but Berry is still reeling; when Berry and her father embark on a journey to South Africa to attend a memorial service in Laura’s honor, all of her emotions come rushing back. Will she be able to reconcile her differences with her estranged father and move on with her life amidst the troubled terrain of South Africa?

Coman captures Berry’s feelings and emotions adeptly, brining her to life as the reader learns of Berry’s unique character traits, such as piling stones on her chest so that she feels weighted. While Berry believes this trip with her father is sure to be a disaster, the find themselves growing closer together as they realize how insignificant their problems are in relation to the greater issues plaguing South Africa. However, Coman realistically portrays their reconciliation by allowing Berry to slowly come to terms with both Laura’s death and her father’s behaviors before and after the murder; Berry does not break through her carefully controlled façade until the end of the novel.

The cover of Many Stones features a photograph of an underwater view of a teenaged girl swimming laps. Beneath the swimming girl, a black and white photograph of stones fades into the photograph of the swimmer. These two photographs represent Berry’s escape methods, and since the potential reader would not realize the significance of these two photographs, he or she may just write the book off as another book about a swimmer.
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