December 27, 2006

Sisters Entwined

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

She must have stayed awake until I slept. She must have had her sewing scissors tucked into her pocket. Sarah knew where she was going. I woke to no warm place beside me. She’d cut the braid close to our heads, tucked half into my hand –
You / me / sisters / always

The Braid is a clean and poetic narrative told in alternating voices. Scottish sisters Sarah and Jeannie are thrown out of their home in 1850's Scotland, along with their parents and younger siblings because this is the Fuadaich nan GĂ idheal - the expulsion of the Gael from their Highland homes by the United Kingdom. In obedience to what is expected, sister Jeannie chooses to go with her parents to Nova Scotia and try to find a new life, while Sarah hides in the woods for three days until she is sure her parents have embarked without her. She then esapes with her grandmother to her family's birthplace.

Though their lives are shorn apart, the girls remain linked through their braided hair. Their stories take differing turns as their futures move in different directions. Jeannie's life is forever changed after losing her youngest siblings and her father in the brutal crossing to Nova Scotia. As a stranger in a strange place, she longs for home, and struggles to accept her lot, her mother's grief, and her place in this new world without her sister. Sarah's life is changed by losing the tight bonds of sisterhood. She is lonely and out of place in a land full of cousins she doesn't really know. She feels she is saved, when she falls in love... but she becomes pregnant and is faced with another mouth to feed in straitened circumstances.

Each sister's heartfelt story is beautifully told in a piece of historical fiction that gives us another emotional picture of a part of Scottish history which is not as familiar as our modern view of kilts, bagpipes and golfing.

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