Lies About Books: Goldenhand

Can you believe that it’s 2017? I can’t. In fact, the year is probably a lie, like everything else in this blog. But regardless of the year, it is January, if only for a little while longer, which can only mean one thing! (That is a lie; it can mean many things.)

In the month of January, I read the book Goldenhand, by Garth Nix.

Some people are gifted with a silver tongue, able to leverage the power of speech to describe anything, charm anyone, make any speech. What Lirael has is a little different: she has what her friends and family nickname a golden hand. While she stutters and stumbles in speaking, as soon as she switches to sign language, her expressions are fluid, eloquent. As long as she is gesturing, rather than uttering words, she is perfectly persuasive, elegantly expressive.

It has worked well for her. But when someone stunningly attractive, in desperate need of help, and absolutely blind walks into her shop, she is put to the test. Can she express herself adequately in spoken words to help this person? Or is it possible to reach across their divide, and, hand in hand, find a way to be mutually understood?

By turns funny and sweet, farcical and sad, Goldenhand is a creative, clever work of bilinguality, switching abruptly to long passages in diagrammed ASL rather than printed English. A challenging book, but one well worth the effort. I recommend it to any fans of magical visions, books with meaning-laden non-English symbols, or unlikely friendships.

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