Hope amid the gloom

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am

It's 1850 and sisters Jeannie and Sarah live on the Isle of Barra in Scotland. It's a time when landlords choose to raise sheep on the lands instead of renting them out, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes.

The family plans to go to Canada. The night before they leave, Jeannie and Sarah braid their hair together. But in the morning, Sarah is gone. She has cut the sisters' braid and left half in Jeannie's hand.

It turns out that Sarah has decided to travel with her grandmother back to her grandmother's home on the tiny rugged island of Mingulay.

Jeannie and her family board a ship to Canada, and the journey is a lot tougher than they thought.

Many passengers are sick, and the sleeping area below deck smells.

Jeannie misses Sarah so much, but then her youngest sister develops a fever, which worries the whole family.

After the family lands, they decide to go to Cape Breton, hoping to find other travellers from home. Jeannie is hungry, dirty and sad, but she prevails. Her inner strength keeps her going.

Meanwhile, on Mingulay, Sarah gets to know her extended family and falls in love with a young man named Murdo. Little does she know what's in store for her: passion, sorrow and shame, but also hope.

Jeannie and Sarah's stories are moving and powerful - they are filled with emotions that every teenager can relate to.

The book also tells us that no matter how desperate you become, there is always hope.

The Braid

By Helen Frost

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux