A Thread So Fine
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About the Author
Susan Welch grew up in Minnesota and Wisconsin with either her nose in a book or her toes in the water. She earned a master's in international management and built an international career in the brewing industry. She is coeditor of Hot Flash Fiction, an online literary magazine focused on works by, for, about, or of interest to "women of a certain age."
Irish twins navigate late-1940s Minnesota and their turbulent relationship in debut author Welch's genuine story of family loyalty, misfortune, and potential. Born 11 months apart, plain and traditional Shannon Malone competes with, and is often bossed around by, her younger, more beautiful, and overachieving sister, Eliza. At 18, Shannon is quarantined in the hospital with tuberculosis, where she bonds with the women of her ward over being survivors. Meanwhile, Eliza, the pride of her professor father, enters college and begins dating the young David Whitaker. After Eliza is brutally raped by David's cousin and becomes pregnant, she is destined for the Catholic Maternity Home for unwed mothers. Putting the baby up for adoption, Eliza is determined to further her academics with encouragement from Mrs. Perkins, a prominent government administrator. Once Shannon is released from the hospital, she finds new meaning in her life when she connects with Eliza's daughter, Miriam. Welch steadily traces the two young women's desire to forge their own lives, often hindered by shame, silence, guilt, and the stifling confines of societal expectations. Readers will be inspired by Shannon and Eliza's persistence and heart.
The intense love shared by two sisters is challenged by crises in Welch's debut novel, set in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Ithaca, New York, during the mid-20th century.
Shannon and Eliza Malone, born less than 11 months apart, were inseparable as children. The younger sibling, 17-year-old Eliza, is taller and more scholastically successful, and she has a social confidence that Shannon wishes she could emulate. Their mother, Nell, has always been more attentive to Eliza; meanwhile, Eliza "wished she could intervene and overwhelm Shannon with the security she craved but never got from the very same mother." The girls have different dreams for their futures, but their devotion to each other is total. Then, in August 1946, Shannon contracts tuberculosis and is hospitalized for 10 months.
In skillful, straightforward prose, Welch sets her character-driven narrative against the backdrop of postwar societal changes. Along the way, she implicitly contrasts the more traditional St. Paul society with the nascent progressive movements in Ithaca. The addictive melodrama weaves a tale of secrets, misunderstandings, resentments, and squandered opportunities for reconciliation that keep the sisters apart for almost two decades. Shannon, the more creative of the two siblings, is a more fully drawn character than Eliza, and readers get to know her more intimately through her unmailed letters. A strangely ethereal epilogue offers a mostly satisfying conclusion, even if it leaves a few questions unanswered. An engaging and poignant historical novel.
"In A THREAD SO FINE, Susan Welch has written a beautiful story of sisters, history and love. The Malone sisters remind us a of a time - not so long ago - when a woman's autonomy and self-realization often came at a price. Shannon and Eliza grabbed hold of my heart and carried it with them until the final, satisfying pages." Tara Conklin, New York Times Bestselling Author of The House Girl and The Last Romantics
"There are so many issues in this beautifully written book: unwed mothers, veterans with PTSD, violence against women, a broken family, women's ambitions, and adoption. Welch makes her readers ache for these two sisters .... This is one of those rare novels that forces you to sit for a few minutes after you've finished reading it until you are ready to return to the real world." Mary Ann Grossmann, Twin Cities Pioneer Press