The Incandescent Threads, Richard Zimler (2022)
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the two sole survivors of an ancient and esteemed Sephardic Jewish family try to put their lives and hearts together again in North America. Benni, a tailor in New York City, becomes obsessed with his family’s mystical heritage; Shelly works as a gardener and in a sporting goods store in Montreal, and devotes himself to living life to the fullest — especially in bed. As different as they are, they remain deeply and passionately committed to each other, their families, and life itself.
This is a novel told in nonlinear but interrelated pieces, from the perspectives of Benny and Shelly’s wives, lovers, and children. (In this ‘mosaic’ format it resembles the structure of Calling for a Blanket Dance.) While I would have welcomed some time inside the minds of these two wonderful characters, it was just as fascinating to learn about them through the eyes of their loved ones, who find them at times frustrating and confounding, but always compelling.
As a side note, while the book’s events take place in as diverse places as Warsaw, Algeria, New York, and Boston, I think of it as a Montreal book, and it captured the spirit, geography, and feeling of that great city better than any other book I’ve read.
All told, this was an amazing book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It inspired me, it made me think, and it moved me to tears more than once.
Read this if you’re interested in:
- Life after Trauma
- Holocaust Survivors
- 20th Century History
My Rating: 97 (Premise 8, Setting 10, Main Character 10, Plot 9, Intrigue 10, Relationships 10, Success 10, Writing 10, Enjoyment 10, Impact 10)
- Meet Me at the Museum, Anne Youngson (2018), 89: When her lifelong best friend dies of breast cancer, Tina, an English farmer’s wife, is confronted with her mortality and the choices (and non-choices) that have defined her life. She writes a letter asking rhetorical questions to a long-dead anthropologist who captured her imagination as a child with his studies on bog mummies. To her surprise, she receives an earnest reply from the museum’s current curator, Anders. Thus begins an unlikely friendship, as these two lonely souls find connection in one another’s very different lives as they contemplate together what it means to live, to age, and, eventually, to die. This is a cozy and gentle epistolary novel. I admit that I got bogged down a bit in the middle (no pun intended), but overall, I found it to be a beautiful, meditative read. (Mature Protagonists, Aging, Grief and Loss, Epistolary Novels)
- Reinventing Masculinity, Edward M. Adams and Ed Frauenheim (2020), 91: In this excellent book, Adams & Frauenheim argue that the ideals of masculinity in Western culture have become stunted and need to be widened in scope by allowing more archetypes a place at the table. The book got repetitive at times, but over all it’s a great and hopeful resource. (Psychology, Gender, Masculinity)
- The Long Game, Dorie Clark (2021), 82: In a fast-changing world, does it even make sense to think for the long term? In this book, Clark (who recently made the prestigious list of the Top 50 Business Thinkers), argues that yes — in fact it’s more important than ever. Through tools, research, and stories, she paints an inspiring picture of what is possible if we’re willing to be patient, do the work, and be ready to fail. Clark’s story-heavy style didn’t work as well for me as it may for many. But she is an engaging thinker with a lot of wisdom to share, and for that I’m very grateful. (Business, Strategy, Entrepreneurship)
- A Rover’s Story, Jasmine Warga (2022), 91: The NASA team is preparing “Resilience,” a fictionalized version of the Perseverance Mars rover, for its journey into space. Little do they know, Resilience has become sentient and developed human emotions. Meanwhile, the daughter of one of the main team members starts writing letters to Resilience, explaining her feelings about her mom’s long hours on the project. I loved Resilience’s narrative, but was a little let down by the second story line. It didn’t really impact my feelings about the book overall, but I just didn’t think that part was necessary. (Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Space Travel, Mars, Artificial Intelligence, Family, Friendship)
- The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick (2015), 85: Bartholomew Neil has lived a comfortable but extremely sheltered life at his mother’s side for close to forty years and has no idea how to move forward (let alone pay a bill or get a job) when she dies. But, with a strange assortment of friends at his side, he finds out that he may have quite a bit to offer the world after all. This was a delightful surprise for me; I picked it up because I enjoyed his new release, We Are the Light, so much (see my November 26 post for my spotlighted review), but had low expectations. But while there is a lot that is incredibly uncomfortable about this book — intentionally so — I genuinely came to love Bartholomew and his odd assortment of friends. (Grief and Loss, Coming of Age, Epistolary Novels, Celebrity, Roman Catholicism, Cats)
- The Stardust Thief, Sandsea Trilogy 1, Chelsea Abdullah (2022), 74: A mysterious trader known as the Midnight Merchant is drawn into a plot by the Sultan to uncover a powerful lost Jinn relic in this first installment of a new fantasy trilogy. I loved the setup and Abdullah did a wonderful job of letting her readers know the main characters right from the start. Unfortunately, for me at least, the plot got a bit too convoluted and it lost me about a third the way through and could never fully pull me back in. (Fantasy, Middle Eastern Mythology, Strong Heroines)
- Ghosts, The Reckoner 3, David A. Robertson (2019), 69: In this final installment in the Reckoner trilogy, our group of heroes try to uncover – and stop – the mystery of what’s happening with the secret lab in Wounded Sky. I have to say there were diminishing returns for me in this series; it probably could have been a stand-along, since the second and third books largely repeated the same emotional and plot beats as the first. I enjoyed the world and many of the characters, but there juts wasn’t enough steak with the sizzle to keep it going for three books. (YA, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Indigenous Perspectives)
Leave a Reply