Already a national bestseller in the author’s native France, The Braid marks director and screenwriter Laetitia Colombani’s North American debut. Tender yet provocative, it’s a captivating and compassionate exploration of the lives and situations of three very different women separated by social class, work, culture and geography.
In India, Smita makes her living cleaning out her neighbors’ toilets by hand, while determined that her daughter will not share the same fate. In Sicily, Giulia must take over her family’s wig workshop and fight to innovate it for the 21st century after a tragedy befalls her father. Finally, there is Sarah, a high-powered lawyer and single mother whose cancer diagnosis has her fighting not only for her life but for her position at her firm. Much like the hairstyle from which the novel takes its title, each woman’s story is told separately and is seemingly unconnected to the other two, loosely paralleling one another until the very end, when their interconnectedness becomes apparent and all strands of the story flow into one.
One of the greatest challenges for novels with multiple narratives is that it’s rare for all storylines and characters to be equally compelling. The Braid suffers no such issue; each heroine shines when she is the focus, each plight feels urgent, vital and interesting. Colombani’s cinematic background serves her well as the plot moves swiftly through succinct and surprising vignettes. Readers will race to see how (or if) each woman will overcome the considerable obstacles she faces and how their lives will ultimately intertwine. Colombani’s writing is earnest and unobtrusive, and her words are largely in service of keeping the story humming along, with the occasional poetic flourish. There is none of the awkwardness that can sometimes stymie literature in translation.
A soul-expanding novel of hope and resiliency, The Braid is a celebration of womanhood, connection and the power of perseverance. It would make an excellent choice for book clubs or readers looking for a short but powerful read.