When Ann Hood lost her five year old daughter Grace to a sudden and virulent form of strep, she was understandably bereft. But the journey through grieving ended on a high note three year later as Hood cradled the Chinese orphan she’d pledged to mother. “I knew that our hope of rebuilding our family again was indeed possible,” she wrote in her blog. It was that hope, combined with the inspiration of the other families that made up the group she traveled with to bring their daughters home, which compelled Hood to pen a novel – a re-imagining of the secret histories of the abandoned infants and the heartbreaking sacrifices of the mothers who gave them up. So The Red Thread was born.
Centered on a Rhode Island adoption agency called Red Thread (after the Chinese legend that each child is connected to its parents by an invisible gossamer fiber) and its director Maya, the narrative unfolds in overlapping tales of six couples who come to the agency yearning for a child, punctuated by vignettes of the Chinese birth mothers. Through Maya’s dual role as grieving mother and capable shepherd, Hood steers a compassionate course through the rocky shoals of infertility treatments, ovulation-driven sex, resentful stepchildren, and the overwhelming longing for a small being to love. Unspooling one bit of red thread at a time, Hood’s novel is at once exuberant and elegiac, a touching meditation on the tensile bond between husbands and wives, children and parents, and friends bound by fate and the desire to belong.