Many Stones

Many Stones

4.5 7
by Carolyn Coman, Handprint

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Sixteen-year-old Berry Morgan lives with her mother in Rockville, Maryland, where her mother works as a reading tutor. Berry's father, a lobbyist, lives in San Francisco with his girlfriend. He comes in and out of Berry's life unpredictably. A year and a half ago, he showed up at her school with shocking news: Berry's sister was dead. While working as a


Sixteen-year-old Berry Morgan lives with her mother in Rockville, Maryland, where her mother works as a reading tutor. Berry's father, a lobbyist, lives in San Francisco with his girlfriend. He comes in and out of Berry's life unpredictably. A year and a half ago, he showed up at her school with shocking news: Berry's sister was dead. While working as a volunteer at a school in Capetown, South Africa, Laura had been brutally murdered. Now Berry sets out on a two-week trip to South Africa with her father to attend a memorial service for Laura. He has arranged some other activities as well: a business meeting in Johannesburg during which Berry awaits him at a posh hotel; a guided tour of Soweto by minivan; and three days at Krueger National Park, where they live in round huts and go out spotting giraffes by day and elephants, leopards, and lions by night. Berry and her father's painful journey forces them to look beyond their own grieving and bear witness to a country's tortured search for truth and reconciliation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Coman (What Jamie Saw) adopts some conventions of the problem novel in this ambitious work about forgiveness. Berry's sister, Laura, has been murdered in South Africa, where she was volunteering at a school, and Berry, still smarting from her divorced father's perceived rejection of the family, is becoming angry and isolated. Early on she explains that she collects stones and stacks them on her chest so that she can feel their heft and "know there's something there to be weighted." Obliged to accompany her loathed father to South Africa for a memorial service, Berry, who narrates, is sure so much time with her father will be disastrous. But when they meet South Africans searching for ways to forgive after apartheid, Berry and her father realize they must begin their own reconciliation. As Berry confronts the devastation of a race of people subjected to degradation, imprisonment and torture, her own experiences come to seem almost trivial by comparison: "I feel smaller and smaller.... It's like big, important history drapes over everything here in South Africa.... Nothing I know comes close to being a matter of life and death," she realizes. The implied parallel, however, is frequently jarring--exactly what has Berry suffered at the hands of her father, and how unforgivable is it? The ending, like the controlling device, is unusually neat for Coman. But there is gripping writing here, from the lightning-quick portraits of passing players to the descriptions of South Africa to the convincingly clipped conversations between daughter and father. And most important, the protagonist's emotional complexities seem uncannily true to life. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Devastated by her older sister's death, Berry grimly punishes herself for being the one left alive by quitting her beloved swim team, cutting off all her hair, and retreating from the world at large. She ritually places small stones on her chest until they form a heavy mound, attempting to hold down all the tumultuous emotions that she refuses to allow herself to feel. When her distant father suggests a trip to South Africa—where Laura was killed—to attend a memorial in her honor, Berry is torn. Although she longs to start the healing process within herself, she doubts that she can even try in front of the parent who loved Laura best. "I'm not dumb; I know this whole trip is metaphor city—everyone everywhere trying to forgive each other and get on with it; South Africa, us about Laura, Dad and me. I get it, I just don't get how." Slowly, however, as Berry and her father tour the pain-ravaged countryside, getting closer and closer to the site of Laura's memorial, Berry feels the stones lifting. She begins to realize that if an entire country can accept, forgive, and move on past the nightmare of apartheid, she can at least try to let Laura go. Coman's third book is a quiet little ode to the grieving process. Well written, though not exactly fast moving, Many Stones is more concerned with the inner landscape than the outer one. Recommend this one to your introspective, thoughtful readers, or to those grappling with the death of a loved one. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Front Street,160p. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Jennifer Hubert VOYA, February 2001 (Vol. 23, No.6)
Coman's What Jamie Saw is a Newbery Honor Book and a National Book Award finalist, and Many Stones certainly will be considered for the ALA Best Books list. It's a gripping story that is well written, and the theme of healing after a violent crime touches many larger concerns. Berry is the protagonist, at 16 still traumatized by the murder of her older sister Laura some months before. Laura was an idealistic young woman who went to South Africa to teach, dedicated to helping Mandela's new government succeed in post-apartheid times. She was murdered in a senseless act of random violence. Their parents are divorced and Berry never really has forgiven her father for leaving the family. When the father proposes a trip to South Africa, just the two of them, in order to attend a memorial service for Laura, Berry is reluctant to go and apprehensive about spending so much time with her father. Since Laura's murder, she has been in a strange mood, seeking oblivion more than trying to face her own loss and grief. She surely doesn't want to try to use words to express her feelings—and since her father talks and talks, it drives her crazy, especially when he asks her how she feels. In South Africa, various events pierce through Berry's armor: one is a discussion about the Truth and Justice Commission with a young waiter whose two brothers were killed during apartheid; one is a visit to Robben Island, where Mandela and other political prisoners were held for more than 25 years; one is a trip to a wildlife area, with lions feeding on giraffes and hyenas waiting for their share; the final, culminating event is the memorial service for Laura at the school where she taught. All these scenes arevivid and moving, in and of themselves. Coman makes them brilliant by describing Berry's emotional and intellectual responses so well, capturing the ambivalence, the confusion, the misery of a sixteen-year-old who is trying her best to make sense of her world and connect to it. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, Front Street/Publishers Group West, 158p, $15.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Children's Literature
Award-winning author Coman tracks the angst of teenagers. She does it so well that it becomes almost painful to be allowed into the mind of Berry, who is carefully zoning herself out of life following the death of her older sister Laura. What Berry does well is swim, and when she quits her school swim team, her long-distance father arrives on the scene to cart her off to South Africa for the memorial service for her slain sister. Berry fights hard against the country that has taken her beloved sibling and fights equally hard against her father's attempts at closeness. It's in the throbbing life of the country itself—torn between remembered violence and the future—that Berry finally learns how to take a stand, and begin her own personal resurrection. 2000, Front Street, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Berry Morgan is weighed down by Many Stones (Front Street, 2000), as she deals with the murder of her older sister, Laura, and the continuing strain in her relationship with her self-absorbed father. Award-winning author Carolyn Coman has artfully captured the complex emotional terrains of teen grief and family conflict. Frequent forays into Berry's interior dialogue explore her anger and need for reconciliation. Most of this is set in South Africa, where Laura was killed, and father and daughter are dedicating a memorial sculpture. The people and the events that have transformed that nation in recent decades are skillfully woven into the story, along with glimpses of wild life in Kruger National Park. Berry finally recognizes that learning about South Africa, and time alone with her father, have helped her begin the process of healing. With a perfect blend of insolence and anguish, narrator Mandy Siegfried helps listeners care about a very believable teen. Good quality is evident in the sound, and in the information on the cassettes and case. Many Stones provides valuable insights into how both nations and individuals can cope with shattering losses and make new beginnings. This superior recording has a great deal to offer teens and adults, and it will be well received in public and school libraries.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Hazel Rochman
You read this small book in one breathless rush to the end, then go back and back again and find more to think about each time...The question of forgiveness is always part of this story, but Coman draws no neat parallels between the political horror and Berry's personal conflict with her dad, except perhaps to show that, in both, truth and reconciliation are hard, incomplete.
New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Gripped by powerful, often contradictory, emotions, a bereaved teenager unexpectedly finds healing in a country struggling with its own wounds. More than a year after her older sister Laura's murder in South Africa has turned her into a rebellious, mercurial loner, Berry reluctantly agrees to fly with her estranged father to Cape Town for the dedication of a memorial. It's a long 11 days, as she meets the priest and children with whom Laura worked, tours Soweto and Robben Island, marvels at the wildlife in Krueger Park, and hears South Africans talk about their experiences and attitudes. She and her equally strong-minded father swing repeatedly between open hostilities and sincere efforts to establish some common ground. Writing with her usual economy and penetrating insight, Coman (Bee & Jacky, 1998, etc) portrays a young person searching for something—she's not sure what—and finding it in keeping the link that her sister forged with an amazing people. These are people who have suffered for their beliefs, but now look resolutely toward a better future, alive. It's an uplifting tale: harsh, complex, but lit at the end by a promise of reconciliation. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

National Book Award Finalist

Carolyn Coman is the author of Tell Me Everything, What Jamie Saw, and Bee and Jacky. What Jamie Saw received a 1996 John Newbery Honor Award from the American Library Association and was also named a National Book Award Finalist. She has two children and lives in New Hampshire.

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Many Stones 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eraklis_5 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the novel Many Stones by Carolyn Coman because I am a teenager and I feel that this particular story can be very easily related to adolescence. This is because throughout the plot line the main character ,Berry, has a growing conflict with her father, similar to how teens commonly have disagreements with their parents. This story, however, becomes less than relateable when Berry's sister, Laura, gets murdered while preforming philanthropic duties in the country of South Africa. Laura's murder causes Berry to spiral into a state of grief and depression, making this story a little dark at some points. This is followed by a rather Hollywood ending where she forgives her father and moves past the death of her sister by finding passion in the humanitarian actions that Laura had once took part in and loved. In my opinion the book was overall entertaining, and I thought that the author, Carolyn Coman did an excellent job of depicting the struggles one faces by the loss of a loved one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved how this book explored the views of both an angered teen who is mad at everyone and a father who is trying to reconnect with his daughter. This story is sad but it makes you appreciate the family that you have. It also makes you realize that no matter how good things are going they can change in an instant. I thought this book was very true and realistic of how a realationship can change between loved ones after a death of a person you both care for. This book is a must read if you are looking for a story of two family members trying to reconnect with eachother.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for young girls. It was one of those books that you just can't put down. This is a very well written book and i enjoyed it very much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm in the prosses of finishing the book. But still the powerfully discriped novel catches my breath. I enjoy it very much. Nice work Carolyne!