Thursday, February 6, 2020

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl - Book Review

Read an Excerpt
Every extraordinary book has that moment when you fall irrevocably in love with it.  For me, that oh-I-just-love-this-so-much moment in Catherine Ryan Hyde's Brave Girl, Quiet Girl came from the mouth of a babe.  You can pretty much count on a two-year-old to get right to the heart of the matter and Etta doesn't disappoint.  When she whispers brave girl, quiet girl to her trembling rescuer, the story is made... the book's soul is revealed... and this reader was completely smitten.

Because you can follow links to the official book synopsis, I won't spend time rehashing what you can discover for yourself.  Let me just give you the broad strokes and then cut to the chase.  After all, that's what I want in a review—not so much facts, as the alchemy of what makes for an unforgettable reading experience.

I have already mentioned Etta.  If you ask me, this amazing toddler is the pivot upon which everything turns.  As the story begins, Etta is ripped away from her family in the course of a carjacking.  Her mother, Brooke, is desperate to find her baby, but the odds are stacked against a safe return.

And then there is Molly, a cast-off teen, living on the mean streets of L.A. after being discarded by her rigid, unaccepting parents.  It is so perfectly fitting that a child who has lost all sense of worthiness is the one who comes to find, and protect, Etta after the jackers abandon her in the dark of night.

Despite the bleak circumstances that embrace both Brooke and Molly (or, I'm now thinking it is because of that bleakness), the broken pieces of two psyches will discover a way to fit together in perfectly imperfect ways to form a new sense of acceptance, belonging, and family.

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl is ultimately the story of how the light gets in through the broken places to illuminate the beauty that was formerly hidden within the bleakness.  I've come to the recognition, after reading a majority of Catherine Ryan Hyde's books, that one of her many gifts as a writer is something I can only compare to the Japanese aesthetic known as wabi-sabi.

The thing I find so appealing about this aesthetic, especially as it applies to CRH's consistent approach to bringing together beautifully flawed people, is how the imperfection causes me to love them more.  Just as the Japanese do, the author highlights rather than hides the flaws.  In her skillful hands, the flaw becomes the work of art.

Just as wabi-sabi features that which is authentic, and acknowledges that nothing is finished, so too do we see that in this book's work-in-progress characters.  We experience them in their raw state of becoming.  It makes them entirely relatable and, in my case, made me feel great empathy for their plights.

Finally, I was deeply struck by how the homeless in this story viewed those who sought to help them.  It made me reflect on my current relationships with those who are without a home.  Why is help offered?  When is help not at all helpful?  What is the best way to reach out to those in need?  How do they define the need?

Those who appreciate the humanity at the center of Catherine Ryan Hyde's writing are sure to find much to love, just as I did, in Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.  I knew I could count on coming away from this read with a feeling of greater compassion—not only toward Brooke, and Molly, and Bodhi—but also for my own flawed self.

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl releases on May 19, 2020.  I received an Advanced Reader Copy (e-galley) from NetGalley in return for my honest review.  I highly recommend this book and encourage you to pick up your copy today.











Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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14 comments:

  1. This book definately sounds intriquing. Another one for my to read list.

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    1. I would like to launch a book club and choose this as our first read. It's the kind of book that really makes one examine the treatment of those with different lifestyles and identities. It causes you to ask: How can I best love someone exactly as she is?

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  2. I've read Pay it Forward and a couple other Catherine Ryan Hyde books, so I am sure I will enjoy this. I look forward to its publish release date. Thank you for another delightful book review, Diana. You always find a way with words which leaves one anticipating the moment we open the book to that first page.

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    1. I've read nearly all of Catherine Ryan Hyde's books now (my quest is to read every single one). The themes she chooses to explore are so important--especially at this moment in time when so many people are feeling marginalized. This book spoke deeply to me. The characters, in their struggle, reveal the kind of humanity I wish to exude. Thank you for your generous comments about my writing... my words. That means a great deal to me. Anticipation is a wonderful thing.

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  3. Your review has me greatly interested in reading "Brave Girl, Quiet Girl". It is probably not one I would have simply picked up off the shelf, yet it sounds like an original and intriguing plot that I would enjoy. I definitely appreciate your encouragement to see the beauty in flaws. They are often what makes each of us divinely unique.

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    1. Catherine Ryan Hyde's books are important for the vital issues that are presented in such accessible ways. I like how she spreads such kindness, compassion, and empathy in this world. I also like that she does not shy away from topics that make some people uncomfortable. Most of all, I admire and respect her deep humanity. She is a beautiful person who is doing much good in this world. When I read her books, I find myself wanting to be more and to do more of what truly matters in life. And yes... it is our flaws that make us uniquely wonderful, and most likely, deeply feeling and caring human beings. Without my flaws, I doubt I would express that humility in the form of empathy and compassion. The flaws and brokenness are what move one to reach out with unconditional love (at least that is what I have experienced). I like that I can introduce others to new books that they may not naturally find without these reviews. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.

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  4. I am definitely putting this on my too be read list. It sounds wonderful!

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  5. What a lovely review. You have me riveted and wondering if Etta makes it back to her family. This story line would also make a terrific movie.

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    1. Oh yes... this would make a great movie. You should purchase the rights and be the creative force behind it. I've learned that you can do anything you set your sights on. First, you will have to read Brave Girl, Quiet Girl to learn Etta's fate. No spoilers here!

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  6. I am intrigued! Love the reference to wabi-sabi throughout her work, which makes this author even more intriguing to read.

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    1. Intrigue is good! That's what I go for in my reviews. Catherine Ryan Hyde really nails the wabi-sabi aesthetic in her books. Perfection wouldn't interest me, but give me authentic beauty, and I am all in.

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  7. Okay Diana, you sold me! I love this kind of book that really leaves you asking yourself some very important questions and looking for answers too. It is going to be on my MUST READ book list. Thanks!

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    1. Soul-searching books are the best, aren't they? This book will stay with me for a very long time. I'm still reflecting on my outreach to the homeless after reading this.

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