An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff (and Alex Tresniowski), 2011

 

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I finished this book on the train to Chicago from St. Joe, and it made me wonder if I’d see the homeless, the panhandlers, the destitute differently while in the city. I’m always torn.  I give a quarter or two to the guy who hangs out on the bench by Brian’s apartment, and I’ve bought a sandwich on two different occasions for young teen boys asking for money.  But that’s about the extent of my connecting with anyone. And this book is about connection: it’s about a woman who stops on the street in Manhattan, turns around, and buys lunch for a young kid who is asking for money.  That lunch turns into a decades long relationship between Maurice and Laura, the book’s primary author. She was a young, successful sales professional, and he was an 11-year-old boy desperate for food, living in squalid and transient conditions.  Why, exactly, did she turn back and offer to feed him?  That’s the “invisible thread” that she can’t really explain.  She was just somehow pulled back to him.

Not without its challenges, their relationship ebbs and flows as she tries to navigate a way to help Maurice without usurping his drug addicted mother.  Laura recognizes she’s a friend, not his mom–nevertheless, she supports him in so many ways that his mom cannot. But he offers her a friendship she needs and values, too.

The story–which toggles back and forth between Laura’s relationship with Maurice and Laura’s own tumultuous upbringing (her backstory feels out of place and forced at times)–is honest and transparent. The writing, on the other hand, is often weak, clunky, and repetitive. My 9th graders “show rather than tell” better than she does most of the time. If you can get past her mediocre writing, this is a worthy and quick read.  I’m grateful that one of my freshmen recommended this book to me.

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