Reviewed by Molly Martin
Thread For Pearls
A story of resilient hope
by Lauren Speeth
Elfenworks Productions, LLC
Perfect Paperback: 448 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0999707104, Nov 2018
Lauren Speeth’s Thread For Pearls opens in 1963. An eerie stillness follows eighteen-month-old Fiona’s dropping her rattle, and her mom finds a strange purplish bump on her head. Before the chapter ends, Mom aka Peggy, will divorce Wolf, Fiona’s father. For a time Fiona will live with her father and his new wife and their daughters and visit Mom and older sister Karen now and then. The story presents a wild ride that moves from the US to India, to New Zealand, ashrams, education, Watergate, the California earthquake, and many more world events. Despite its heft and cumbersome length, I found Thread for Pearls to be a thought-provoking, and engaging novel.
The narrative presents a deftly crafted tale relating the journey of a young woman who manages to face, accept and overcome what many would believe to be an impossible childhood. Periods of normalcy are interspersed with periods that are anything but normal, receiving and unexpectedly having pets given away, or left behind, left on her own way too often by both her Mother and Wolf cause Fiona to do much of the raising of herself.
Daring and complex, the narrative grasps reader interest and holds it fast. From Fiona’s life beginning during her toddler days to that of a determined young woman attending college; the reader comes to understand the resilient hope that inspires Fiona in her search for the storybook family and home she never fully realized during her childhood.
Time spent at Grams’ house, as well as the periods when Mum, Hanna, and her sisters are present are the periods of calmness, regular schooling, wholesome meals, routine and happy times interspersed into the narrative which also has aspects of total disarray, adults who respond little as adults or parents who simply drag their children with little thought to the well-being, education, needs or hopes; along on the latest impulse, caprice or whim to strike one the other parent.
Because I was born in the Bay Area, California, and grew up during the time period presented in the story; I found the references to familiar circumstances, situations and dates to be poignant, memory stirring, and stimulating.
Characters are presented with all the warts, idiosyncrasies, métiers, successes and failures as are found in most of us. At times; they are nearly an all too realistic crowd. As a teacher who taught children in California during the time period of the narrative; I recognize certain behaviors and situations, in memory, of many of my students and their parents.
Fiona’s resilience helps keep her centered despite life that changes too often and too unpredictably. Her internal anguish is apparent, loss of adored pets is difficult at best for children. Fiona having to leave Regis and Hogan and Rudy behind with little prior explanation or given away in the case of her cherished poodle by a mother who decided Fiona would not be able to care for her, and didn’t tell Fiona until the dog was gone and living on the East Coast, is especially difficult to read. I highly recommend Thread for Pearls for both young adult and adult readers, and feel it would be especially appreciate for the a high school counselor’s book collection to share with clients for discussion.
35+ years classroom teacher