Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

In The Fault in Our Stars, the protagonist describes falling in love as “the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”. That’s how I fell in love with this book.

In some ways, I was looking forward to Sorrow’s Knot for the pure magic of Erin Bow’s prose. She has an eerie ability to paint such vivid, startling pictures with just a certain choice of words that I sometimes wonder if she isn’t a wizard. Like it's forerunner, Plain Kate, this book cast a spell over me. Sorrow's Knot is a stunning yet harrowing story about a girl named Otter, a binder of knots that keep back the dead. Her world is a rare one and Erin Bow weaves it well. With rangers and binders and storytellers, with names like Willow and Mad Spider, Otter’s world of the pinch evokes images of an indigenous community untouched by colonialism and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in YA. The friendship between Otter (the protagonist) and Kestrel and Cricket is refreshingly real and all three are so very brave in very different ways. I adored Kestrel’s quietness. My heart thrilled with Cricket’s storytelling. And I ached at Otter’s struggle to find her place in the world.

The most compelling thing about this book, though, is the role of binding and unbinding. In Otter’s community the dead are banished by knots and strings and the binders of these knots are magical, powerful people. But, as Otter's mother tells her, "something is wrong with the knots." And thus, in a story that is largely about loss, the theme of binding things too tightly and the problems that arise with not letting things go becomes its beating heart.

Sorrow’s Knot is a book that looks darkness straight in the face with depth and courage and grace. It sits in the hard, sad places as much as it sits in the light, and that is my favourite kind of story.


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