Review – Mustard Seed by Laila Ibrahim
Mustard Seed by Laila Ibrahim is the second book in the Yellow Crocus series. It follows Lisbeth and Mattie’s (now Mrs. Freedman’s) journey back to Virginia from their newfound home (and freedom) in Ohio. It is both a physical and an emotional journey, since our characters ‘walk down memory lane’ once they get back to their old ‘home’. They each set out on their respective journeys without knowing of the other’s plan but ultimately their paths cross. (Remember, they could not keep in touch for fear of Mattie and her family getting into trouble.)
Yellow Crocus dealt with the subject of black wet nurses caring for white babies. It is something that I did know about from other books and movies, but I never really read about it in such detail (The Help by Kathryn Stockett touched on this the most – out of all the books that I’ve read so far about slavery in the American South).
Mustard Seed doesn’t fail in opening up a conversation about a very hard subject either: what happens to former slaves after the Abolition? The sad truth presented in this book is simple: pretty much nothing. Instead of being sold, they are “leased out” to former slave owners. Instead of being publicly whipped, they are taken to jail and left to starve. This just goes to show that it is much easier to change a law than to actually change the mindset of a nation (although changing the laws is a good start!).
What I liked most about Mustard Seed though, is not necessarily the depiction of the post-Civil War Virginia, but the way Laila Ibrahim redefines family through the relationship between Lisbeth and Mattie (and their husbands and children). Family means shared values, unconditional love, understanding and trust. Principles that Lisbeth’s family either lack or simply don’t share with their estranged daughter.
As with Yellow Crocus, where the crocuses symbolised (to me at least) the beginning of change, the start of something new and beautiful, Mustard Seed brings a powerful metaphor that manages to interweave the whole narrative.
“You a sower today, baby. You cast seeds of knowledge to those chil’ren. You ain’t gonna know how or where or if they gonna blossom, but you did God’s work today—you sowed some seeds.”
The mustard seed represents the changing times and the roles each and every one of our characters play in them. To me, the mustard seeds represent the ability to choose what one believes in, to choose to hope for a better future, even if not much else is possible. As Mattie says at one point:
“Getting you to lose your hope the biggest weapon they gots. So our best weapon is to hold on to hope, however we can.”
Of course, the title is also suggestive of the following passage from the Bible:
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Matthew 17:20”
In Mattie and Jordan’s case, faith is something they can never take away from them. So when Mattie gives out the mustard seeds to her children and family, it is as if she is saying “have faith, believe in a better future”.
I am not religious at all, but I do understand that in times like these faith can be a powerful force that guides you through the harsh realities of everyday life.
Mustard Seed is every bit as good as Yellow Crocus, and it deserves a Five Fox rating from me. 🦊🦊🦊🦊🦊
I can’t wait to read the third and final book of the series, Golden Poppies!
Questions to Ponder
What does ‘family’ mean to You? How would You define it?
How did this book make you feel? What shocked you? What gave you joy?
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