Book Club

Dear Fellow Readers:                                                                      

This time we are going back to the time of the American Civil War.  In 1863, in a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps using repurposed thread on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.  William makes it to the Camp Parapet, the training spot for the new Louisana Native Guards, whose ranks are filling with Black soldiers. William is fit to serve and enlists. His skill is music – he plays the flute. At the camp he meets Jacob Kling, a young soldier from New York, also a musician, who has mastered the trumpet and the cornet. The two musicians seem destined to serve together and do so as the band at the front of the army that leads the soldiers whenever they go into battle.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As Stella and Lily risk everything for love and freedom during thebrutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us.

The story alternates back and forth between Jacob and William at Camp Parapet in Louisana, and Stella in New Orleans—and through letters from Jacob’s beloved, Lily. In this way, many personal realities of that era are explored. The widespread anti-Semitism, as well as the anti-negro sentiments of the time, are both important attitudes to remember from the history of the Civil War. And let us not forget the attitudes towards women in that era.  War is not just experienced by soldiers, but by civilians too – not just by men, but by women too.  This novel, loosely inspired by both authors’ family histories, is worth reading, worth thinking about, and definitely worth discussing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope you will too.