The Braid

Author: Helen Frost

The year is 1850, and famine is sweeping across the land. Worse still, many of the Scottish landlords are finding it isn’t worth their while to continue to allow tenants on their lands. Such is the situation Sarah and Jeanie’s family find themselves in, forced to leave their home and find a new place to live. The family decides to sell what little they can and take the next ship to Canada in hopes of starting a new life there, but Sarah finds her heart so tied to the land that she can’t bear to leave, choosing instead to hide while her family is forced to depart without her. Sarah makes a life for herself with her grandmother on the nearby island of Mingualay, while Jeanie and the others make the difficult journey by ship across the ocean. Yet even as they are separated by great distances, the sisters are connected by precious memories . . . memories they carry physical evidence of in the form of a braid made from their intertwined hair.

Helen Frost does something beautiful and special in the writing of The Braid. She has crafted not only a sensitive and poignant tale of the difficulties the poor faced during the potato famine and subsequent emigrations, but she has also created an intricate, elegant poetic work, weaving dual voices, praise pieces, repeating ideas, and detailed line structure. Yet she has managed to create a work that is still very natural to read–sparse, raw in places, yet rich and expressive. The Braid is an excellent work of poetry, historical fiction, sisterly affection, and romance, all wonderfully woven together into a touching, brief volume. Definitely recommended reading.

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