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The Threadbare Heart by Jennie Nash

The Threadbare Heart

by Jennie Nash

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Lily has an empty nest and she's taking on fewer responsibilities at the New England college where she and her beloved husband have been teaching for many years. At this cross roads in her life, Lily is feeling less than confident. Even her marriage, the one stronghold in her life, is beginning to feel off. This becomes especially apparent to her when she and Tom fly out to her mother's lavish home in California. To make matters worse, she and Eileen never really saw eye-to-eye. Eileen seemed to throw love and marriages away like old newspaper. She never gave Lily the stability she felt she needed. Eileen's life is also changing. As she is getting older, her friends are dying. She needs to decide what is important to her. Can both women save what they love the most and learn to embrace life's changes?

The Threadbare Heart is an interesting look at life and love as women age. While I thought that at times Lily overreacted to seemingly things with Tom, I understood her character and felt her struggles. I also related to the way that found her creative outlets. Her love for her grandmother's lace hit home. Eileen is equally sympathetic and, because she's more openly and honestly flawed, was my favorite character. I know that she's the type of person I'd want to spend time with. Although this mother and daughter pair are such distinctly different women, it made sense to me that they were connected because they really needed each other.

I enjoyed reading The Threadbare Heart and finished it in less than a weekend. One disappointment I had was not really related to the story itself. The publisher's summary gave away something that happened half-way into the novel. I wish that hadn't read it at all before picking up the book. I would strongly caution anyone interested in reading this novel not to read the back cover. You'll thank me later. I would definitely recommend this book to those who like reading about mature women and their relationships. ( )
  LiterateHousewife | May 9, 2010 |
Lily and Tom are both professors at a college in Vermont. They’ve been happily married for years and have raised two sons. They are content in their lives and their marriage, but when they visit Lily’s mother, Eleanor, in California, she offers to buy them an avocado ranch that Tom falls in love with. Lily resents her larger-than-life mother because she can’t seem to settle down and she seems to think her money will buy happiness.

In the meantime, Eleanor envies and resents her daughter, because Lily’s found the type of long lasting love that has always eluded her. Lily and Eleanor do love each other, but their relationship is somewhat tenuous. Their family has to survive a horrible tragedy for the two women to realize that they need to set their resentments aside and learn to show their love for each other.

I was purposely vague in my description of The Threadbare Heart. I went into knowing nothing about it, except the fact that it’s written by the wonderful Jennie Nash, and I really think I appreciated it more because of that. The story in this book is told from many alternating points of view, which I loved because I feel like I got the whole story that way.

The Threadbare Heart is basically a book about relationships – between parents and children, husbands and wives and even between friends. It’s about taking care of and nurturing your relationships and letting other people know what they mean to you while you still can. For me, the book serves as a reminder to set aside your differences and learn to appreciate the good qualities of the ones you love.

All of the characters in this book are flawed, but they were all so real, that I could relate to almost all of them. I loved Eleanor and her free spirit, but I can understand why Lily found those same traits aggravating in her mother. I also thought the portrayal of Lily and Tom’s marriage was very realistic – they had a good solid, relationship that had some rough patches, but they worked through them.

I finished The Threadbare Heart right before going to bed one night, and I’m not sure that was the best idea, because it made me cry and then I laid in bed and thought about it for a long time once I was through. This is one of those books that lingers in your mind for a while and I just loved it. ( )
  bermudaonion | May 6, 2010 |
Lily is living what most people would consider a perfect life – she’s been married to the same man for more than twenty-five years while other marriages around her have failed, and she and her husband Tom are enjoying their cozy home in Vermont. But, as with every person’s life, not all is perfect. Tom seems distant with Lily and unhappy with his role as a professor, Lily longs to break into her many tubs of gorgeous fabric and do something creative in her life rather than being devoted to writing a math textbook website, Tom and Lily’s grown boys are living 3000 miles away in California…and there is something intangible which makes Lily nervous…she is beginning to think her marriage is not as content as it should be, and she wonders if she really knows Tom at all. When the two of them make a trip to California for the Christmas holidays – spending time with Lily’s vibrant and somewhat impulsive mother – an opportunity arises for them to purchase an avocado farm and start a new life on the West coast. It seems to be just the thing to reignite their marriage.

The move west goes without a hitch, but just changing locations doesn’t necessarily make everything right…and when an unexpected and horrific wildfire tears through the foothills of Santa Barbara wiping out everything cherished in Lily’s life, Lily must somehow find a path which will heal her grief and re-connect her to what is important.

Lily and her mother Eleanor have a prickly relationship which is fraught with anger and jealousy. They are opposites in almost every way, including how they love and the paths in life they have chosen, but when tragedy forces them together, they find a common ground in an old piece of lace which belonged to Lily’s grandmother Hattie and the only thing of value spared in the wildfire.

It was still neatly wound inside archival tissue, totally undisturbed. The cardboard tube had done its job – as cocoon, as armor, as shield. She felt a wave of gratitude for the simple tube, and for her grandmother’s impulse to preserve the piece of cloth, and for how well her husband had known and loved her. As the fire bore down and the danger closed in, he had thought to save the one object that meant the most to her – that defined her. It was a piece of possibility. - from the ARC of The Threadbare Heart, page 233 -

Eleanor, who is terrified of opening herself up to feelings which might then hurt her, finds that she must risk in order to find happiness; and Lily, who has always clung to the anger against her mother must learn to forgive in order to move forward.

Written in the multiple points of view of all the major characters, The Threadbare Heart is a poignant and wise look at how we choose to love one another. It is also a treatise on appreciating what is most important and irreplaceable in our lives. By slowly revealing the characters in her novel and their experiences and struggles with love and marriage, Nash uncovers the challenges we all face.

Throughout the novel, Nash also explores the theme of memory and how it is attached to the things we accumulate. When Lily begins writing lengthy lists of all she lost in the fire, she is attempting to cling to the memories of her life with Tom. Lily remembers a Matisse tablecloth which she and Tom bought together on a trip to France, she recognizes it is not the tablecloth which brings her such joy, but the memories it holds.

Their friends would comment on the tablecloth, and Lily and Tom would talk about finding it in Lyon, which was really a story about how they found each other, how they committed to each other, and how they shared a love that sustained them. – from the ARC of The Threadbare Heart, page 56 -

Jennie Nash has written a novel that is tender and heartbreaking, a story which examines how we survive when all seems lost, and how friendship and family connection can be the raft we cling to until we have the strength to move forward again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and all the significant relationships in between. Nash captures both the New England and California coastal countrysides well. She managed to make my palms sweat a bit with her realistic and frightening look at a California wildfire, too! For readers who enjoy well-written and honest women’s fiction, The Threadbare Heart is a book I can recommend. ( )
  writestuff | May 3, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 042523410X, Paperback)

Jennie Nash’s “winning debut,”* The Last Beach Bungalow, was followed by The Only True Genius in the Family, a “page-turning delight.”** Now she introduces us to two women who learn the lessons of grief—and of hope…

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, Eleanor— thrice-married and even now, approaching eighty, cavalier about men and, it seems, even about her daughter’s emotions?

It is up to Lily to understand what she could still gain even when it seems that everything is lost. Someday has arrived…

*Publishers Weekly

**Book Club Classics

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:00 -0400)

A photo of her sons. A doormat from Target. Twenty-three tubs of fabric. Somehow it comforts Lauren to list the things she lost when a wildfire engulfed the Santa Barbara avocado ranch she shared with her husband, Tom. He, too, didn't survive the devastating fire. 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 grief, mourning both the tangible and intangible, Lauren 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 in her elderly years, cavalier about men and, it seems, even about her daughter's emotions? Now, it's up to Lauren to understand what she could still gain even when it seems that everything is lost.… (more)

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