Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Braid by Helen Frost

The Braid by Helen Frost is about a braid. Two sisters in Scotland in the 1850's are very close. They share the same bed, they always walk together with their arms linked together. One day, the Highland land lords decide all their tanants have to leave their homes forever. Their father sells his tools and buys tickets for his family to go on a boat to Canada. Sarah, the eldest sister, can't bear to leave Grandma Peggy, who refuses to go, and secretly plans to stay behind. The night before the family is to leave, Sarah and Jeannie, braid their hair together in a single braid. In the morning, Sarah is gone and the braid has been cut off. Jeannie finds half of the braid beside her in her bed and Sarah has the other half in her pocket. Jeannie, with her parents and younger siblings get on the boat and leave for Canada. Sarah watches from hiding and then joins her Grandma Peggy who returns to her birthplace on the island of Mingulay where they have relatives.

The story becomes a braid as first we hear Sarah's story, then Jeannie's story, and then a third short poem about something that has happened in each girl's stories. Each story is braided together by dreams, experiences with hunger, loneliness, love and tragedy. The two girls' lives are so closely braided together that even an ocean between them cannot separate them. They remain connected and can sense when the other is going through difficulties. It is a bond that is tighter than a Celtic knot. Helen Frost is a poet and gifted writer who has woven together this moving story of survival and love in a very intricate way! At the end she explains how she has carefully chosen her words, length of lines in syllables to match the girl's age and style to mimic the braid.

Look for this novel in the Teen Fiction collection!

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