Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Threadbare Heart by Jennie Nash

The Threadbare Heart by Jennie Nash
336 pages
Published May 2010 by Penguin Group
Source: The author

Lily and Tom are settled into their academic life on the East Coast, as far away from Lily's mother, Eleanor, as they can be. Unfortunately, it's also as far away from their sons as they can be. When Tom and Lily travel to California for the holidays, the idea of buying an avocado ranch that one of Eleanor's neighbor's is selling comes into their lives and just won't leave. Both of them decide that the time is right for a change but for very different reasons.

Preparing for the move, Lily and Tom winnow down their possessions to only the essentials which for Lily include 23 bins of fabric, including a piece of heirloom lace that her grandmother passed down to her.

Lily and her grandmother share the love of fabrics and their possibilities but Eleanor has chosen to build her fortune by creating an company that produces high end linens for hotels. That's not the only difference between Lily and Eleanor. Eleanor has been through three husbands and seems to move right onto another man as soon as she's done with a husband. But Lily married Tom for love and for life. Lately, however, she's beginning to question just how well she and Tom really know each other.

As they settle into life in California, Tom begins to spend more time with a young woman who's an expert in avocado growth and it makes Lily very uncomfortable. So when she meets a man whom she knew in high school, she begins having fantasies about him. One night Tom comes home to find that Lily has been drinking red wine, something they both know will cause her to have extreme migraines. So when a wild fire starts later that night, Lily is no help trying to help get them and their essentials into their truck and to safety. Tom manages to save as much as he can but ultimately, he's unable to save himself as he goes back into the house to find their dog. One of the first things he saved was the heirloom piece of lace he knew was so important to Lily.
"It was silvery white, with wide, open flowers, whose petals formed the scalloped edges of the cloth. Around the flowers, delicate ribbons curved and spun like tiny shimmering roads, and in the center of each flower, was a burst of seed pearls. "
In the coming weeks, Lily must learn how to deal with her grief and loss. To say nothing of the guilt she feels...for thinking of another man the last time she and Tom made love, for being unable to help during the fire, for questioning her marriage.
"It suddenly seemed important that she remember every single thing that she and Tom had purchased, and packed, and moved out to California. If she could name all of those items - the furniture, the clothes, the books, the cups, the toiletries - then perhaps she could know exactly what it was that she and Tom had, all those years together, and what it all meant. She would never have said it out loud, or even admitted it to herself, but she had the tiniest hope that if she could name every single one of the things that brought life to their home that they would somehow add up to Tom himself."
Through all of this Lily's son is dealing with a failing marriage and Eleanor is dealing with the loss of her closest friends.

Okay, I've made no secret about the fact that I love Jennie Nash' writing. So when she sent me this book, I had high expectations. As I opened it, I began to be nervous. Could it possibly live up to the bar I had set for it? The answer is a resounding "yes!" The book looks at love from so many aspects: husband and wife, mother and daughter, lovers and it all worked for me. There are no easy answers, just wonderful explorations and thoughts.
"..the whole crashing reality of how you can never know what your husband is doing or thinking. You can never be sure that love is real. You can live with someone for 40 years and love them and be loyal to them and feel loved in return, but you will never know how they truly feel about you, how much space they leave open in their heart for other people, other things."

"But it didn't feel like what I imagined a long marriage to be- rich and vibrant and passionate. It just felt...familiar."
Well, that will make you think, won't it?! Nash's writing just speaks to me. I find so many truths in it, so many characters I can relate to and so many wonderful bits of dialogue. Here Eleanor is talking to her friend, Grace, who is losing her battle with cancer:
" "You're not eating your hot dog."
"I'm dying," Gracie said.
"I know that," Eleanor said, "but that's no reason to ignore a hot dog."
"I think it will be soon," Gracie said."
I loved the relationship between Lily and Eleanor. And, like Lily, I couldn't understand how anyone could be like Eleanor. It turns out that Eleanor has a problem having Lily around as well and Lily finds out she may not be as much different from Eleanor as she thought.
"Tom and Lily were like you and Judy," she said. "They were one of those couple that made you believe in marriage. It used to drive me crazy that she had exactly the thing I had never been able to get. I had husbands die and husbands disappoint, and I took lover after lover trying to fill the void, and she just sort of fell into this beautiful, lasting relationship like it was nothing. I know I should have thought this about my own child, but I didn't think it was fair."
Then Nash throws in things that make me swear that she sneaks into corners of my house and spies on us. How else could she possibly know to have Lily's granddaughter ask to have her father read "Harold and The Purple Crayon, a book that remains one of my son's all-time favorites. How else would she have known that Lily and I would go about preparing for a move in exactly the same way while Tom and my husband would drive us nuts during that time?
"Tom was more difficult. He wanted to keep everything - 25 years of National Geographics, a trekking pole that no longer had a mate, and all his gardening tool, whether their handles were splintered, their tines were rusted or their blades as dull as a piece of wood."
My gosh--that is entirely my husband, right down to the rusty tools and National Geographic magazines!

Book clubs will find so much to talk about in this one. My own club is reading it for September (and getting to talk to Jennie!) and I can't wait to hear their thoughts. If you belong to a book club, be sure to check out the contest on the right side bar for a chance to win a set of signed books for your club and a rum cake. To win a signed copy for yourself, all you'll have to do is impress me with your essay on your favorite mother/daughter pair in fiction!


  1. I agree - this book was fabulous - and so is your review!

  2. Hmmm, I'll have to check Jennie Nash out! I need an "N" for my ABC Challenge anyways :o)

    Oh, and my hours aren't really cut's just that I got used to all the overtime when I was training my replacement at work, plus working shifts out at asset control. Now that I'm out at asset control for good, I have to get used to the paychecks that don't have OT anymore!

  3. I haven't had a chance to read anything by Jennie Nash as of yet, but this book does sound good. It sounds like the author really knows how to make her characters come to life. Thank you for your insightful review, Lisa.

  4. Wonderful review! I have been hearing good things about this book and am anxious to read it. I think I might take your advice and offer it at my next book club meeting. I just know the girls would love it!! Thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Thanks sweet Lisa for your gushing review! I'll take gushing any day over the alternative :)

    And BTW I can't get my flier onto my website, either!

  6. Nash certainly seems to have keen insight into relationships. I love books that have truthful dynamics.

  7. Yes, there is SO MUCH for book groups to talk about with THE THREADBARE HEART!

    I love how Jennie Nash showed the differences and similarities between Eleanor and Lily (the way they each approached fabric, for example)