Threads is my introduction to Charlotte Whitney and I have discovered a talented writer. Threads follows the lives of three sisters growing up on a hardscrabble farm during the depression, and the story alternates among their points of view. Nellie is the youngest and in second grade, and she has the most pronounced mid-Michigan farm dialect. Irene is in sixth grade and a definite middle child. She and Nellie attend a one room school. The oldest sister, Flora, is in high school.
Nellie is a real tomboy with a vivid imagination. One afternoon, while she explores the meadows and woods surrounding the farm, she spots a tiny black hand poking out of a mound. Nellie is terrified and listening to her parents talking that night – she can hear them if she puts her ear to the heat register in the floor of her bedroom – she learns it was a baby boy. The sheriff had been called but no one had any idea about whose baby it was. Her parents worry they will be blamed.
Irene is sassy, intelligent, and has become the pet of the school’s teacher Miss Flatshaw. She thinks Nellie is stupid. Flora is on the cusp of adulthood. She is a caring and perceptive young woman who has considerable responsibility in the work of the farm and realizes that her life will be one of a farmer’s wife, despite her desire for a career.
The three girls’ personalities are wonderfully wrought – you can hear their voices in your head. You live with them over the next years, through all the details of running a farm, struggling to put enough food on the table to feed everyone, the penny-pinching and making-do, the sharing of whatever they have with those more in need, and the whims of the weather on which their livelihood depends. The descriptions take the reader into life on a farm, into a loving but stressed family, and through all of life’s transitions: from one grade to another, graduation, first love, surprising traumas. Woven in is the continuing mystery of the dead baby’s origins. I particularly liked the last chapter, which presents us with the girls as adults with lives of their own.
I highly recommend this book. It was a joy to read. The author’s knowledge of, and passion for, this era shines through.
About the author:
Charlotte Whitney grew up in Michigan and spent much of her career at the University of Michigan directing internship and living-learning programs. She started out writing non-fiction while at the University and switched to romance with I Dream in White. A passion for history inspired her to write Threads. She lives in Arizona, where she loves hiking, bicycling, swimming, and practicing yoga.
You can find her
On her blog: https://charlottewhitney.com/books
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CWhitneyAuthor/
On Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cwhitney2171/
On Twitter: @CWhitneyAuthor
Threads can be found on Amazon: