Way back in August I mentioned that I had attended an author talk and book signing by Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread. At that time, Ann mentioned in passing that she has been to a member of the audience's home to attend her book club meeting. After the meeting, my friend Colleen and I approached Ann and (nervously) asked her if she would be willing to come to our book club to discuss her book. And she said yes! Well, that meeting finally happened last Thursday and I am happy to report that it surpassed our wildest expectations.
Ann arrived at the restaurant a few minutes after the rest of us and immediately put us all at ease by breezing in and saying loudly and cheerfully "Hello Book Club!". At that very moment, I knew this was going to be the best book club meeting ever. I had been a little worried that we would all be tongue tied and star struck and the meeting would be stilted and awkward. It was anything but. Ann has obviously had plenty of experience with this type of thing and quite smoothly took the lead and set the tone for what turned out to be a very relaxing and informative evening.
She enthusiastically and thoughtfully answered all our questions about writing, becoming an author, her writing process and the book itself. No topic seemed to be off limits. And even though I'm sure she has answered these same questions thousands of times before in all of her various appearances, she never seemed bored by the questions or gave an answer that seemed "rehearsed". It was amazing.
The best part was learning about how she constructed The Red Thread and all the elements that went into the character and plot development. Fascinating. I came away with a much deeper understanding of the story itself. I wonder how much more I would get from all the books I read if I could only pick the author's brain over pasta and wine.
I can't say enough about what a wonderful and gracious woman Ann is. I still can't get over the fact that this best-selling, famous author, who has a very busy life would take the time to come to our book club and talk to us for over 3 1/2 hours. She lingered over dinner and never gave us the impression that she needed to leave or would only be willing to stay for a limited time. I am still shocked by her generosity, openness and kind spirit. I feel very lucky to have been able to spend time with her.
In all my gushing, let's not forget the book itself. The Red Thread is a terrific book about 6 couples who decide, for a variety of reasons, to adopt little girls from China. It is also the story of Maya, who owns the The Red Thread Adoption Agency, and has her own very personal reasons for being in this business. The story follows each couple from their orientation at the adoption agency to the day they pick up their long awaited daughters in China. Each of the characters is very well developed and each one is flawed in their own ways. What I was most impressed with was that I could see myself in or identify with each and every one of them. That really impressed me. But, I think the thing I liked most about The Red Thread is that Ann Hood not only tells the stories of the adoptive families, she also presents us with the stories of the families that give up their daughters for adoption. And, like the American couples, each one does so for a variety of reasons. It was a delightful surprise when I came to the story of the first Chinese mother. I was not expecting that and I appeciated seeing their stories as well as the stories of the adoptive mothers. Doing this added a richness and fullness to the story which made the "adoption story" fresh and new. I would give The Red Thread 4 stars - I really liked it!
I can't say enough about The Red Thread and especially about Ann Hood herself. Many of the members of our book club were buzzing about it even the next day. It was an experience I will never forget and one for which I am grateful. I'm sure this will go down as our best book club meeting ever.