On my birthday this year, my sister-in-law gave me a remarkable gift…a captivating and inspirational book that was not on this librarian’s radar! Shortly after I received the book, An Invisible Thread, I noticed that it appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list. The book has generated positive feedback that has multiplied over time through word-of-mouth recommendations…it is a feel-good book in the spirit of Pay It Forward and The Blind Side.
Laura Schroff was a successful ad sales rep in Manhattan and her life was busy and demanding. One day she passed an eleven year old panhandler on the street. She kept walking when he asked her for change. Destiny or some strong unseen connection pulled her back to Maurice and she invited him to McDonald’s for lunch. These strangers, 2 people out of 8 million, developed a remarkable friendship that lasted a lifetime. They began to meet on Mondays, despite the comments of friends and relatives who questioned the motives and risks of such a connection.
Both Laura and Maurice carried the weight of a violent past, and an insecure upbringing. Laura never had biological children, but she did feel a maternal bond with Maurice. I found it eye-opening as the author shared the troubling realities of Maurice’s life, including the fact that he did not know how to use cutlery, had lived in at least 20 different places by age 11, and had never known anyone with a legitimate job. Maurice’s stuff would just “disappear” at home, including small gifts from Laura like a washcloth and toothpaste. Laura eventually gave him a footlocker and a lock so he could protect his “valuables” from relatives and house guests! The most touching revelation for me was when Laura started preparing Maurice’s school lunches, which she left with the doorman for Maurice to pick up (as she was worried that he went hungry on the days of the week that they did not meet). Maurice requested that the lunch be wrapped in a brown paper bag as that brown bag symbolized love and caring, and he envied the others at school who carried such treasures.
One of the author’s goal in relating this very personal story was to change how society thinks about people less fortunate and to help them understand why it is sometimes nearly impossible to change a devastating cycle. There is also a powerful message in Laura’s small and simple gestures of caring that is likely to have a positive and life-changing effect on readers and their interaction with others. The book certainly reinforced for me the importance of living life by the golden rule…
Other inspirational reads you may have missed (with publisher summaries):
Mister Owita’s Guide To Gardening by Carol Wall
A true story of a unique friendship between two people who had nothing-and ultimately everything-in common. Carol Wall, a white woman living in a lily-white neighborhood in Middle America, was at a crossroads in her life. Her children were grown; she had successfully overcome illness; her beloved parents were getting older. One day she notices a dark-skinned African man tending her neighbor’s yard. His name is Giles Owita. He bags groceries at the supermarket. He comes from Kenya. And he’s very good at gardening. Before long Giles is transforming not only Carol’s yard, but her life. Though they are seemingly quite different, a caring bond grows between them. But they both hold long-buried secrets that, when revealed, will cement their friendship forever.
Breaking Night by Liz Murray
In the vein of The Glass Castle , Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard. Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls’ home. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep. When Liz’s mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman’s indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.