Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bowled Over by Denham's The Bowl and the Stone

I was lucky to read and review an early copy of this novel by Bish Denham. Set on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin islands in the 1960s, The Bowl and the Stone centers on young Nick and Samantha (Sam), their friendship, and some spooky ghosts. 

Image: luca.porfido

Considering the age of the protagonists, you might think this is a story primarily aimed at the middle school set. Much of the first half of the book goes into delicious details of the rich imaginary life Nick and Sam enjoy. Amazon explorers, pirates, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are just a few of the roles these two take on in games that span the island from the beaches to the ruins of a sugar plantation. They drink limeade, plan a joint 12th birthday bash, and one even wears a crustacean shell mask for Halloween. 

Image: Ian Sane

The life these two lead makes me want to weep in nostalgia for my own childhood. I was lucky enough to grow up on the edge of a huge neighborhood. On one hand, I had miles of hilly, paved roads for biking and rollerskating. On the other hand, my house was surrounded by woods with streams and climbing trees and an old dump where you could find blue glass bottles on a lucky day. We also had a dock on the bay of a huge manmade lake (Lake Hartwell) behind the house. For many years, my dad would take us out on our second-hand speed boat to swim or let my mom waterski. 

It was a childhood where I could hike, wade, or build forts in the real world, not just in Minecraft. I had a huge territory to explore, and no one monitored me as long as I was home in time for dinner. Today, I don't let my kids go to the mailbox without watching from the window. 

So, in that sense, The Bowl and the Stone is for those of us who remember childhoods spent outside, racing the sun home on a bike or splashing through a stream a month before it was really warm enough to do so. It's a love letter to the past. 

But go back far enough in history and the past holds deadly secrets. When the ghost enters the tale, Nick and Sam's friendship is tested as the tension mounts. I appreciate how Denham presents the horror of slavery and the connections between the past and present. How the title elements weave into the story is pure art. Finally, the time spent featuring the relationship between Nick and Sam pays off in a bittersweet ending as well. This is a five star read. I highly recommend it.

The Bowl and the Stone is available now at: Amazon and Smashwords

Bish is running a rafflecopter contest if you'd like to win a copy along with a comprehensive book tour to share more about St. Johns Island, jumbies, and all sorts of things.

What are your fondest memories of childhood?  


  1. Congratulations to Bish!
    I was inside watching television, playing games, and reading, but my brother and I did explore and ride our bikes all over town. (Back when it was safe for kids to do that.) Plus when we lived in Arizona, we had the whole desert to explore.

  2. Great review! I thoroughly enjoyed Bish's book and didn't feel that it was only for children. With the history of the island and the characters and the ghosts, it's something anyone at any age can read.

    Some of my fondest childhood memories are of taking walks with my mom and picking wildflowers, riding around the block with my brother, and spending all day during the summer in the pool in the backyard.

  3. Oh, I like ghost stories and history. This one sounds great. Congratulations to Bish.

  4. Wonderful review! I'm looking forward to this one, especially now that you've got me thinking of all the fun things I used to do as a kid :)

  5. Sounds like a great read.
    And, Tamara, it sounds like you had a wonderful childhood.

  6. Sounds like you had an idyllic childhood.

  7. I was a tomboy and loved spending time outside doing those sort of things.

  8. I had one of the best childhoods. I grew up in a small town, so everyone's yard was playground.

  9. Hi Tamara,
    Nice to read this wonderful review.
    Happy to be here again after a long.
    Here today via Chrys Fey's page.
    Keep writing
    Have a good day
    Philip @PVAriel

  10. Outdoor childhoods were the best! I remember sledding down the "hills" near our house house a pro. (Some people would call them mountains. We were in the foothills of the rockies.)

  11. Great review. I can tell this is a must read for me. As for what I remember fondly about childhood: dressing up in my mother's costumes with friends (she was a singer) and then putting on performances on the back porch of a house we rented for awhile. The performances were for each other—we never tried to get anyone to come and watch us. But we really thought we were great. Lol.

  12. You've made me nostalgic for my own childhood! I grew up on a farm in a small village and my friends and I had a great deal of fredom and lots of adventures.

  13. Sounds like a great read--thanks for sharing. I had a free-range childhood, and for the most part, I let my boys do the same. I don't think the world is so much less safe--just our perception of it.


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