A Threadbare Heart by Jennie Nash
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Available: May 4, 2010
Book received from: Penguin
A photo of her sons. A doormat from Target. Twenty-three tubs of fabric. Somehow it comforts Lily to list the things she lost when a wildfire engulfed the Santa Barbara avocado ranch she shared with her husband, Tom. He didn’t make it out either. His last act was to save her grandmother’s lace from the flames-an heirloom she has never been able to take scissors to, that she was saving for someday…
As she negotiates her way through her grief, mourning both the tangible and intangible, Lily wonders about her long marriage. Was it worth all the work, the self-denial? Did she stay with Tom just to avoid loneliness? Should she have been more like her mother, Eileen-thrice-married and even now, approaching eighty, cavalier about men and, it seems, even her daughter’s emotions?
It’s up to Lily to understand what she could still gain even when it seems that everything is lost. Someday has arrived…
Lily and Tom have raised their family and both are a few years away from collecting full pensions as university professors. During a visit with their family in Santa Barbara at Lily’s mother’s house, Tom expresses an interest in a local avocado ranch. Seeing this as an opportunity to bring the family closer to her, Lily’s mother Eleanor offers to purchase the land for them. Not wanting to depend on her mother, Lily’s first reaction is to decline the offer. However, after returning to their New England home Tom and Lily revisit the idea and agree that perhaps this move is a good idea and decide to go ahead with the plan, leaving behind their life’s work in pursuit of a new life on the west coast. Lily plans to spend her time quilting and finally putting to good use all the fabric she has collected and saved over the years and Tom will learn to work their land become an avocado farmer.
As with any family, there are problems and life’s issues to deal with. Lily and Tom have always had a comfortable, loving relationship but at this point in their marriage, Lily is beginning to have doubts, and questions her marriage to Tom. She wonders if she really truly knows her husband begins fantasize about an old friend she’s recently reunited with from high school, even going even so far as to visit him. Although she’s hasn’t been unfaithful, guilt over her thoughts and actions lead her to turn her feelings around on her husband accusing him of being attracted to another woman.
Lily also has a complicated relationship with her mother. While Lily has lead a stable life with her husband, Eleanor had been married 3 times and believes love is fleeting cannot be counted on. Their mother daughter rivalry is laced with envy and even borders jealousy at times but remains civil and on some level is still a loving relationship.
When a wild fire tears through the area, Lily and Tom have little time to pack up and get out. Tom rescues Lily who is suffering from a debilitating migraine at the time and then returns to the house where he is overcome by smoke and dies. Lily is left to sort our her feelings of guilt over the state their marriage was in when Tom died and to work through her grief along side her family.
A Threadbare Heart takes the reader through a journey of complicated human emotions dealing with relationships, both marital and familial that truly tug at the heart. In her loss Lily finds a way to bridge the emotional gap between her and mother overcoming years of emotional turbulence between the two of them. The last cherished item her husband saved from their burning home becomes a gift to her mother and catalyst to their healing.
This book was very hard for me to put down once I began reading. Even knowing from reading the blurb that Lily would indeed lose the love of her life, I still held out hope that it would not happen and Lily would not have to face life without Tom. Lily’s grief and how she dealt with it left me sad but with a feeling of empowerment for her as she picked herself up and carried on. Watching as Lily faced her grief and mended her relationship with her mother was difficult yet inspiring and this is a story I will not soon forget.
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