Where the River Runs Gold

Sita Brahmachari

image credit: Amazon UK

Review by Nisha Vyas-Myall

It’s been a while since I last added a review, and my apologies for that. Many things have got in the way of reading- I’ve been on the same few books for the last couple of months. I managed to clear some of my TBR this month, so hopefully there will be more reviews to come.

I’m starting with this one because, well, it blew me away. Brahmachari takes us into a future where a massive catastrophe, Hurricane Chronos, has wiped out most of the natural world, leaving the government to find new ways to grow flowers and food.

Nabil is raising two children- Themba (pronounced ‘Temba’), his son with his late wife, and Shifa, the abandoned child he found on the night of the Hurricane. When they reach their eleventh birthday, they are sent to Freedom Fields: a special school created after the Hurricane. Children spend their time at a boarding school which also includes learning to cultivate vegetation to feed the country. However, when Shifa and Themba arrive, they discover this school and the schemes behind it are far more sinister than they were originally led to believe. It then becomes a race against time for Shifa and Themba to get back to their father and reveal the truth.

The story is told from the perspective of Shifa, who is not only dealing with the upheaval of her life into a terrible labour camp, but also the separation from her dear feline companion, Daisy, and the revelation that she isn’t related to Nabil or Themba by blood. Her desire for justice and love for the family she’s always known drives her through peril and hardship.

As I said, this book blew me away. Brahmachari doesn’t shy away from so many issues which affect our modern day society: slavery, propaganda, class warfare, climate change, even the refugee crisis. This book is aimed for preteens and young adult, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. The parallels are clear and unashamedly poignant, which is both bold and also necessary. Another thing I found really refreshing is that Themba is neurodiverse and it’s done with grace and respect. Ir’s evident in her writing that Sita Brahmachari has done a lot of research into the varying components of her work to make the allegory come to life.

The style of writing is beautiful and expressive. I found myself fully absorbed in the text and doing the whole “aaah, just one more chapter”, which is something I have found harder to do as I’ve got older. The only thing I would point out as a negative is there is a cliffhanger towards the end which doesn’t get resolved, almost as though someone ripped out a couple of pages.

Additionally, the final conclusions, I felt, were a bit rushed. I would have liked to have heard more about how the end point was reached, but a lot of it happened off page. As a preteen reader, I would be happy with that, I think, so I’m not going to fault that too much. We still found out what happened and it was well written.

All in all, I recommend this book- it’s a very easy read which still dives into deep issues. The target demographic is approximately 9-12 but I’m 31 and enjoyed it.

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