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Lily is a fifty-something college professor, wife to Tom, mother of two grown-up boys, and something of an eccentric fabric-hoarder. Rather than use the material she collects, she prefers to imagine the possibilities of what each might become. Her most prized possession: a piece of her grandmother’s heirloom lace, still intact.
Lily and Tom share a quiet but stable marriage, so when he suddenly suggests they exchange their teaching careers in Vermont for an avocado ranch in California, Lily begins to question everything she thought she knew about her husband.
After tragedy strikes, Lily is forced to come to terms with how she really felt about Tom, and what she has left once she’s seemingly lost everything.
The Threadbare Heart also follows two other stories. Eleanor, Lily’s seventy-five-year-old mother, has sworn off men after three failed marriages. Lily’s eldest son, Ryan, begins to feel the strain on his own marriage to Olivia after their daughter is born. Eleanor and Ryan’s stories complement Lily and Tom’s in a way that brings perspective to all their relationships.
There are no surprises in this novel–most of the big events are given away in the jacket blurb– but it does achieve its goal of provoking readers to think about their own relationships. Lily’s fears and doubts about her marriage are spot on. And although Ryan and Olivia’s story is secondary, I think Nash does a particularly good job of capturing the stress and ambivalence experienced by young married couples with children.
This is a quick read. The writing is simple, but interspersed with passages of more sophisticated prose and beautiful description. I particularly like the sewing and fabric metaphors that are woven through the story.
Because it follows three generations, I’d recommend The Threadbare Heart to women of all ages. It’s particularly suitable for book clubs or other discussion formats.
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