I received a copy of The Good Braider by Terry Farish for review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.
About the Book:
We first glimpse Viola, just briefly, in the United States. We know she’s safe and doing her best to fit her Sudanese self into her new American life.
Then we’re plunged into Viola’s past. Over the chapters that follow, we walk with her on her long and unimaginably hard journey. From war-torn South Sudan to a refugee camp in Cairo to family in Maine, Viola struggles to stay alive, stay true to herself, and find her place in the world.
I was skeptical at first; after all, The Good Braider proposes to cover a lot of ground for a book that’s just five discs long on audio. I guessed it would be too shallow to be very powerful, too abbreviated to do its subject justice. I’m happy to report I was very pleasantly surprised.
There is something about the way Terry Farish writes that makes The Good Braider just work. Goodreads says the novel is written in “spare free verse,” which makes sense. Though I listened to the book instead of reading it, the writing has a free verse kind of quality to it. Farish only needs a few words to communicate layers of emotion and significance with power and truth. She calls up vivid images with ease. Her scenes are short, and she dips in and out of time at various intervals, but her ability to zoom in on precisely the moments and details she needs makes the story feel amazingly substantial. The war in Sudan is viscerally real. The relationships Viola has with her family and friends are nuanced and complex. Viola’s feelings of being caught between two cultures yet part of neither seeps from the pages, permeates her viewpoint and her actions. It’s really quite impressive.
Viola is the kind of character you can’t help but root for. You respect her, learn from her, cross your fingers and toes for her. You bear witness to her story and realize what you are seeing is truth. You want her to help you understand her situation, to make her life real for you. And she does. You can’t help but be moved by the time you reach the final page (or track, in my case).
I appreciate that Farish doesn’t shy away from tough issues. She doesn’t sugarcoat Viola’s life or shelter her from reality by any means. At the same time, though, she’s not more graphic in her telling than she needs to be. I never felt like she included an incident or description purely for shock value. Her judicious use of really hard topics makes them all the more powerful, in my opinion.
Cherise Boothe does an exquisite job reading The Good Braider. I could not have asked for more in a narrator. She fit Viola’s voice like a glove, which always makes for a smooth and enjoyable listening experience. It was like the cherry on top of the sundae that is The Good Braider.
I don’t have much else to say. It’s a powerful story, expertly told and seamlessly narrated. I’m happy this little gem happened to cross my path.
The Verdict: Enjoyable
The Good Braider didn’t quite hit the “excellent” level for me, but it was on the very high end of “enjoyable.” If it sounds like something that’s up your alley, give the audiobook a try. I think you’ll like it.
What apparently simple books have surprised you with their depth, complexity, or thoroughness?