Beautiful, dream-like and with horrifying warnings about the future of our planet, 'Where the River Runs Gold' is an important and challenging read which will provoke much discussion.
Shifa and her brother Thema live in Kairos in a world wrecked by climate change. Only the few live privileged lives in luxury, while the majority must comply with the all-seeing eyes of the Freedom Fields organization in order to survive. And so Shifa and Thema are sent to the labour farms where things are worse than they could possibly imagine. They plan to escape. But what world will they discover beyond the pollination tunnels and an encampment where even their very eyesight has been altered?
Sita Brahmachari writes beautifully and with the power of a gifted dreamweaver. Her descriptions of varying environments: cities, trains, compounds, barren wildernesses and nature are extraordinary. Characters are brought to life with huge compassion and sensitivity. Shifa is strong and vulnerable, but it is her brother Thema who is a tremendous creation adding depth, emotion and a strange sense of wonder to the narrative. There is real tenderness and heart to the relationships between characters.
Upon finishing this book I had the feeling of having woken from a dream. The last quarter of the story flows quickly, gushing and glistening like a fable or fairytale - I wasn't sure if it was all imagined or merely symbolic, which is all the more harrowing for the gritty sense of realism that preceded it. Were my eyes altered as well? Questions are left unanswered and I'm still wondering if this was deliberate or not. Yes there is a ring of hope at the end, but also a sense of unease - all this is fiction and we must wake up! I've seen some reviewers say the ending felt rushed. I'm undecided on this. However, the reason for 4 stars rather than 5 is because I felt that there was perhaps something missing (although it could be I have missed something myself). But then, is this deliberate? I may well ponder over all this and give the book 5 stars instead.
There is much to admire about this beautifully crafted book. 'Where the River Runs Gold' sparkles with wonder and rages with menace. Realism? Magic realism? Fable? Warning? It's perhaps all these things. One thing it does is lingers in the mind for days after, like awakening from a strange dream, or some kind of sublime nightmare. It is very much worth a read to discover for yourself!