THREAD FOR PEARLS: A Story of Resilient Hope, follows young Fiona Sprechelbach from birth to young adulthood. The backdrop of her youth are the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s, and how those events shaped the adults around her. Fiona is both hopeful and positive, and it is she who carries the book. In fact, this feels almost like a diary written in the third person. And it is always fun to peek through someone’s diary.
As a whole piece, the story doesn’t have much in the way of a large, cohesive arc. Like our heroine Fiona, the reader gets whisked from one thing to the next with little warning or time to adjust to the new status quo. This definitely feels deliberate on Speeth’s part, a risky choice but one that pays off. We feel close to the character. For example, even though the book is written in the third-person, Speeth doesn’t distinguish Fiona’s thoughts in the first-person from the regular narration in any way. It’s as if the book slips into first-person narration every few paragraphs, and it works, as if the narrator and she are telling us this story together, but without getting meta-textual.
Coming-of-age stories are tricky books. On one hand they are meant to be a metaphor for growing up that many (if not all) readers can directly relate to. On the other hand, they are often very autobiographical and almost memoir-like, in that they represent the author’s specific path on that journey to adulthood. THREAD FOR PEARLS seems like more of the latter than the former. In fact, the only thing that feels fictional is how “resilient” Fiona’s “hope” is throughout the story.
One could argue that there is not enough pathos or reflection through suffering in this book, especially with the benefit of hindsight. The generation that came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s are often lionized as revolutionary and credited with changing the world. Except, they didn’t. They failed in almost every way, save for the Civil Rights movement under the stewardship of Martin Luther King, Jr. But this book is not a critique of a generation, but the story of a girl who in the face of it all still found a way to be hopeful about the future.
This is a story that wants to make its readers feel good, another seemingly deliberate choice by the author. This is a book where people are very worried about failure but often ultimately prevail. Life isn’t like that, unfortunately. But with stories like these, we can turn to characters like Fiona for inspiration.
As a coming-of-age book, THREAD FOR PEARLS does not blaze any new ground, but while the tale feels a little familiar, it’s still a great story with a main character readers will feel close to.
~Joshua M. Patton for IndieReader