The Thread Collectors by Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman ISBN: 9781525899782 (trade paperback) ISBN: 9780369717870 (ebook) ISBN: 9781488214219 (digital audiobook) ASIN: B09L58K9QC (Audible audiobook) ASIN: B09FGTBXH2 (Kindle edition) Release Date: August 30, 2022 Publisher:Graydon House Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Epistolary Fiction
“An unforgettable story of female strength, hope and friendship. This collaborative work is magnificent—a true revelation!” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman with the Blue Star
“A brilliant story brimming with unexpected friendships and family ties. Historically sound and beautifully stitched, The Thread Collectors will stay with you long after the last page is turned.” —Sadeqa Johnson, international bestselling author of Yellow Wife
1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.
Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.
As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us. Loosely inspired by the authors’ family histories, this stunning novel will stay with readers for a long time.
She opens the door to the Creole cottage just wide enough to ensure it is truly him. Outside, the pale moon is high in the sky, illuminating only half of William’s face. Stella reaches for his sleeve and pulls him inside.
He is dressed to run. He wears his good clothes, but has chosen his attire thoughtfully, ensuring the colors will camouflage in the wilderness that immediately surrounds the city. In his hand, he clasps a brown canvas case. They have only spoken in whispers during their clandestine meetings about his desire to fight. To flee. The city of New Orleans teeters on the precipice of chaos, barely contained by the Union forces occupying the streets. Homes abandoned. Businesses boarded up. Stella’s master comes back from the front every six weeks, each time seeming more battered, bitter and restless than the last.
William sets down his bag and draws Stella close into his chest, his heartbeat accelerating. He lifts a single, slim finger, slowly tracing the contours of her face, trying to memorize her one last time.
“You stay here, no matter what…” he murmurs into her ear. “You must keep safe. And for a woman like you, better to hide and stay unseen than venture out there.”
In the shadows, he sees her eyes shimmer. But she balances the tears from falling, an art she had been taught long ago—when she learned that survival, not happiness, was the real prize.
Stella slips momentarily from William’s arms. She tiptoes toward a small wooden chest. From the top drawer, she retrieves a delicate handkerchief with a single violet embroidered in its center. With materials in the city now so scarce, she has had to use the dark blue thread from her skirt’s hem to stitch the tiny flower on a swatch of white cotton cut from her petticoat.
“So you know you’re never alone out there,” she says as she closes William’s fingers around the kerchief.
He has brought something for her, too. A small speckled cowrie shell that he slips from a worn indigo-colored pouch. The shell and its cotton purse are his two most sacred possessions in the world. He puts the pouch, now empty, back into his pocket.
“I’ll be coming back for that, Stella.” William smiles as he looks down at the talisman in his beloved’s hand. “And for you, too… Everything will be different soon.”
She nods, takes the shell and feels its smooth lip against her palm. There was a time such cowries were used as a form of currency for their people, shells threaded on pieces of string exchanged for precious goods. Now this shell is both worthless and priceless as it’s exchanged for safekeeping between the lovers.
There is no clock in her small home. William, too, wears no watch. Yet both of them know they have already tarried too long. He must set out before there is even a trace of sunlight and, even then, his journey will be fraught with danger.
“Go, William,” she says, pushing him out the door. Her heart breaks, knowing the only protection she can offer him is a simple handkerchief. Her love stitched into it by her hand.
He leaves as stealthily as he arrived, a whisper in the night. Stella falls back into the shadows of her cottage. She treads silently toward her bedroom, hoping to wrap herself tightly in the folds of the quilt that brings her so much comfort.
“You alright?” A soft sound emerges in the dark.
“Ammanee?” Stella’s voice breaks as she says the woman’s name.
“Yes, I’m here.” Ammanee enters the room, her face brightened by a small wax candle in her grip.
In the golden light, she sits down on the bed and reaches for Stella’s hand still clutching the tiny shell, which leaves a deep imprint in her palm.
“Willie strong,” Ammanee says over and over again. “He gon’ make it. I know.”
Stella doesn’t answer. A flicker of pain stabs her from the inside, and she finally allows her tears to run.
SHAUNNA J. EDWARDS has a BA in literature from Harvard College and a JD from NYU School of Law. A former corporate lawyer, she now works in diversity, equity and inclusion. She is a native Louisianian, raised in New Orleans, and currently lives in Harlem with her husband. The Thread Collectors is her first novel. Find her on Instagram, @shaunnajedwards.
ALYSON RICHMAN is the USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of several historical novels, including The Velvet Hours, The Garden of Letters, and The Lost Wife, which is currently in development for a major motion picture. Alyson graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in art history and Japanese studies. She is an accomplished painter and her novels combine her deep love of art, historical research, and travel. Alyson’s novels have been published in twenty-five languages and have reached bestseller lists both in the United States and abroad. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children, where she is currently at work on her next novel. Find her on Instagram, @alysonrichman.
Husband Material by Emily Belden ISBN: 9781525805981 (paperback) ISBN: 9781488028571 (ebook) ISBN: 9781488206955 (audiobook) ASIN: B07S38J7LP (Audible edition) ASIN: B07KN7MJ42 (Kindle edition) Publication date: December 30, 2019 Publisher: Graydon House
Sometimes love is unpredictable… Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it. Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not. But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart.
Charlotte Rosen comes across as a strong, successful, and confident woman. A successful career woman proud of her accomplishments in the growing field of social media analytics. A woman who knows what she wants from life. These are all partial truths. Charlotte is successful in her career but she isn’t overly confident with her job or social life. She comes across as aloof when she’s actually somewhat of an introvert and closes herself off to protect her emotions. She has a roommate, but she doesn’t really share all that much with her. She has a “bestie” at work, but only shares work-related materials with her. Charlotte is looking for love and marriage and has created an app to help her determine the compatibility of any “match” she receives from online dating services. She’s confident in the app’s predictability but has yet to meet someone that fulfills her requirements. Well, she had met someone years ago. She had actually married that someone, but sadly, he had died after only one year of marriage. Charlotte has been a widow for five years and the only people that know are those from before she started a new life and job, her former in-laws, and her parents. Then a bombshell is dropped on Charlotte, figuratively speaking. She unexpectedly receives the urn containing her deceased husband’s cremains due to a fire at the cemetery. Charlotte’s emotions are in a serious state of flux. Her roommate is shocked to learn of Charlotte’s prior marriage. Charlotte’s mother-in-law wants to “repossess” the urn, and her employer has given her a forced two-week break as a result of her emotional state. The only good thing to come from this disastrous situation is that Charlotte has reconnected with an old friend, actually her deceased husband’s best friend, Dr. Brian Jackson. The friendship quickly develops into something a bit more and just when Charlotte thinks her life is getting back on track, she is thrown by several huge secrets.
Husband Material is actually the first book I’ve read by Emily Belden (trust me, it won’t be the last), and one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. If anything, this was one story that I didn’t want to end simply because I enjoyed the interactions between Charlotte and her roommate Casey, Charlotte and Brian, and even the interactions between Charlotte and her former mother-in-law. I found the characters, action, and settings to be highly realistic and plausible. Charlotte isn’t a self-absorbed person, just someone afraid of being hurt and emotionally closed-off due to the untimely death of her husband. Yes, she wants to move on, but she has relegated everything in the present to an if this-then that scenario. She’s comfortable coding and has made every attempt to live her life by that binary code without thought about the limitations or repercussions toward herself or others. The primary lesson learned is the life and love can be unpredictable, unmanageable, and wholly unexpected. Although Husband Material is a romance, there are quite a lot of things going on in this story such as self-awareness, self-growth, grief management, and more. Although Husband Material deals with some heavy themes, this isn’t a dark and dour read. Okay, it’s not a light and fluffy read either, but it is an intriguing look at grief, recovery, and starting anew with a decidedly romantic bent. There are parts of the story that made me smile, parts that made me laugh, and parts that made me empathize with the sadness of the main character. If you’re looking for something a little different to read to wrap up your yearly reading or to begin the new year, I encourage you to grab a copy of Husband Material by Emily Belden. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.