As tragedy unfolds, two sisters are able to keep their family ties together, in this brilliantly written, new release by
Helen Frost…The Braid.
A.B.Why The Braid? Why Now?
H.F. "I’m fascinated with the ways that lives of Americans weave together many different cultural influences. I began writing this story thinking it would be Part 1 of a four-part story about the heritage of a contemporary character, but Sarah and Jeannie, the main characters in The Braid, would have none of that—as they began telling me their story, it wasn’t long before I heard their gentle demand that they have a book of their own."
A.B. How challenging was it to use a poem-story format for The Braid?
H.F. "The form I discovered for The Braid was immensely challenging, and, when I saw that it was working, absolutely exhilarating. The form opened the story and the story fulfilled the form. It felt like magic, but I’ve been working with poetry for long enough to recognize the magic as the deep and beautiful power of language."
A.B. As sisters, Jeannie and Sarah have a very special bond that is unfortunately severed very early on in the story. However, their ordeal was creatively, braided together. Please explain how this came about.
H.F. "I have seven sisters (and two brothers); we live all over the country, and we don’t get together very often, but we remain close. It really is a bond that cannot be severed, and as I see this in my own life, I understand more clearly how it must have been for our ancestors, who traveled all over the world without the comfort of email, telephones, airplanes, or efficient postal service. The Braid is fiction, but within it’s pages I feel the presence of my ancestors (including the siblings of my direct ancestors) and my descendants (including my nieces and nephews and their descendants). And also, the ancestors and descendants of people who read the book—all our lives braided together in an intricate and strengthening way."
A.B. Which of the characters from The Braid do you most admire and why?
H.F. "As a child, I would have admired Sarah—my nickname was "R.K." which stood for "Reckless Kid" and I probably would have been following Sarah to the cliff’s edge, reaching for the birds and their eggs. But as an adult, the question is more complex; I see a strength in Jeannie and a gentle beauty in Sarah. What interests me now is how these qualities are integrated in each person or character."
A.B. Please explain what from your own life inspired you to use the Celtic knotwork style to tell the story.
H.F. "I have Scottish and Canadian ancestry; I lived in Scotland for several years, and love to travel there; my husband plays the bagpipes, which has taken us to many Highland festivals—so I’ve often come in contact with the intricate designs of Celtic knotwork. The designs reflect the gnarled roots and branches of trees growing in a wind-blown landscape, which I associate with the kinds of family relationships I mentioned above. In my research for The Braid, I discovered an ancient Celtic alphabet of trees and symbols, mysterious and intriguing. I wondered if I could use language to create something like other artists have created in silver and gold, in dance, in music; forms also evident in trees, in wind and water, in seashells, feathers, stones."
The Braid is published by Frances Foster Books.