It is unusual to come across a novel that so uniquely and successfully transcends genres as Louise Beech’s How to Be Brave. In the present day narrative, a mother and her young daughter struggle to cope after the daughter is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In the historical narrative, which takes place during World War II, a group of sailors are lost at sea in a small lifeboat, threatened by sharks, lack of food and water, and a remorseless sun.
Louise Beech makes skillful use of proven literary devices to combine these two plots. The result is a warm-hearted novel about coping with adversity. It demonstrates that everyone has his or her own story and that different kinds of struggle are equally valid. There are some appealing ghostly elements, drawn with a sufficiently subtle hand to avoid overpowering the essential themes.
How to be Brave is a poignant and well-written novel that has, as its theme, the healing power of stories, whether they are true or fictional, and the bonds that exist both between family members and between other people life throws together. The complexity and power of the mother-daughter relationship, which is at the heart of the book, is especially moving.
There are books that we read just to provide a diversion and there are books that add something to our lives. How to Be Brave is one of the latter.