The Red Thread by Ann Hood – Book Review

The Red Thread by Ann Hood
Published by W.W. Norton & Co

After losing her daughter – and subsequently her marriage – in a tragic accident, Maya Lange moved across the country and began the Red Thread Adoption Agency, helping families adopt baby girls from China. None of Maya’s new friends, clients, or coworkers know about her loss, they simply know she is completely devoted to her job and to bringing families together with the little girls destined to be part of their family. The latest batch of families seeking new additions includes Maya’s good friend, Emily, who is desperate to make her marriage – which is her husband’s second – feel like a family, despite her sullen stepdaughter who wants nothing to do with her.

Instead of focusing solely on Maya, or solely on Maya and Emily, Hood gives roughly equal time to each family contemplating adoption, in addition to writing chapters from Maya’s point of view as she works to help these families bring home babies and works out her own painful personal history at the same time. I was actually somewhat worried when I discovered that so many characters were receiving sections from their own point of view and that each Chinese family whose daughter would find a new home would have their story briefly told as well. Often novels with large ensembles do not work well for me because they frequently seem to sacrifice good character and even plot development for too many points of view, and “The Red Thread” had only 300 pages to tell all of these stories.

My fear was totally unfounded.

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how she did it, but Ann Hood managed to evoke in me an intense emotional connection to the story she was telling and to the plights and lives of all of the families involved, even those Chinese families whose stories were given only a few pages. Maya’s story brought me to the point of tears more than once, and books very rarely make me cry (other than a few Harry Potter deaths, which still get me every time). Part it may have been that this is a highly personal story for Hood who also lost a child and went through the adoption process, but I think it is just as much the fact that she is a phenomenal writer whose backlist I now can’t wait to read.

The writing was gorgeous, the plotting was perfect, and the characterization was superb; it was emotionally engaging without being emotionally manipulative. I can very highly recommend this “The Red Thread.”

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