*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Thread Collectors, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas and a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Thread Collectors is a collaborative novel written by authors Shaunna Edwards and Alyson Richman. Loosely based on the authors’ family histories, the novel tells the story of two women working to support the Union effort during the Civil War.
As the novel progresses, the women (a black woman in the South and a Jewish woman in the North) work to aid the Union effort through sewing and later discover how their stories are intertwined. A little romance, a little friendship, and a lot of history, this novel is the perfect pick for book clubs.
Told from unique viewpoints and interweaving a musical element, the story is set in New Orleans and New York and deals with difficult, often heartbreaking realities of the Civil War while remaining hopeful in the end.
The Thread Collectors is a novel chosen through Book Club Bites’ collaboration with The Best of Women’s Fiction podcast. Don’t forget to check out the fabulous Best of Women’s Fiction podcast where Shaunna and Alyson discuss The Thread Collectors and more: HERE.
I’ve provided book club questions and delicious food ideas for The Thread Collectors and Shaunna and Alyson have a special recipe for you! So if you are looking for book club ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Thread Collectors:
From the publisher:
1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps 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.
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 these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal 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. Loosely inspired by the authors’ family histories, this stunning novel will stay with readers for a long time.
For The Thread Collectors Food Ideas:
Shaunna Edwards and Alyson Richman were kind enough to provide us with a fun cocktail recipe that has roots in New Orleans! A large part of The Thread Collectors is set in New Orleans, so this drink is a perfect complement to the novel!
Bourbon Milk Punch is a smooth, rich cocktail that is reminiscent of other cream-based drinks. If you love White Russians or Eggnog, you’ll love this drink.
The addition of vanilla and nutmeg makes a delicious flavor profile and, while I like it any time of the year, it would make this a perfect holiday cocktail.
Also, while the recipe calls for milk, you can switch that out for half and half or even heavy cream if you prefer a creamier drink. The choice is yours!
The recipe below is for ONE cocktail. You will need to multiply the serving by the number of people in your book club or the number of servings you think you will need (say everyone wants two drinks instead of one).
I found some great resources to help you convert this for a group.
First, some general things to consider, including pitcher size, etc. when increasing a drink recipe. Check out the info.
Second, a calculator for converting the measurements below to the amount you need. Check it out HERE.
I love Shaunna and Alyson’s suggestion to try it with a New Orlean’s based bourbon–check out their notes below!
Whether you choose something from this list or try your own option, I hope these ideas will get your creative juices flowing to host your book club for The Thread Collectors.
The Thread Collectors Book Club Recipe:
Bourbon Milk Punch
- Cocktail shaker
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 3 ounces whole milk
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- 2 dashes vanilla extract
- Garnish: nutmeg freshly grated
- Add bourbon, whole milk, simple syrup and vanilla extract into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
- Strain into a rocks glass (or any glass of choice), and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
More Fun from Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman:
Please insert a short description of your recipe and why it relates to your novel. Include any information you think readers would enjoy!
“The Thread Collectors” takes places during the Civil War, with many scenes unfolding in New Orleans where Bourbon Milk Punch has been a favorite amongst the locals since the 18th century.
New Orleans is also the birthplace of the first cocktail (the sazerac), so focusing on cocktails just makes sense! The combination of sweet (from the cream and sugar) and sharp (from the bourbon) perfectly describes the reader experience we were hoping to create. We explore the realities of the Civil War era, while still leaving our readers with optimism, light and a love story.
Good food and a good book go hand-in-hand. What is your favorite food to enjoy while reading?
Alyson has an undeniable sweet tooth, which she indulges while getting lost in new novels. She loves a warm chocolate chip cookie!
For Shaunna, salty for sure! She likes to munch on toasted English muffins, slathered with butter, good cumin from Morocco and flaky salt.
Did you sample any interesting food while researching this book? Or experience anything exciting while researching?
Because one of our main characters is born on one of the Gullah islands, off the coast of South Carolina, we were lucky enough to St. Helena’s island and take in the incredibly rich history and vivid landscape there. On our last afternoon, after a full day of we had the most amazing lunch. Shrimp and grits and fried okra on the side! It was so good that every time we’ve seen it on the menu during our book tour stops, we order it and remember that special afternoon!
The Thread Collectors Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
These book club questions were kindly provided by the author and/or publisher. Please use only for your book club and do not reproduce them.
- We typically think of sewing as an activity that repairs damaged cloth or in the case of embroidery, beautifies it. What does sewing mean for Stella? How is it different for Lily?
- The authors have capitalized both Black and White in the novel. Did you notice this? Did you ever ponder why White is not traditionally capitalized, but Black is? How has this change affected how you perceive descriptions of race in the written word?
- William’s musical skills allow him more freedom than other enslaved men, which eventually leads to his relationship with Stella and his escape. However, his uniqueness does not shield him from the horrors that befall the Black soldiers at Port Hudson. For members of marginalized groups, what impact does individual talent have (or not have) in improving one’s circumstances?
- Jacob and William find themselves forging a strong friendship against the backdrop of war, despite coming from completely different backgrounds. What do you think draws them together? How does music and outsidership play into this novel? Is there an unusual friendship that you have forged?
- What surprised you the most reading “The Thread Collectors?” Were you aware of some of the historical events? For example, the Louisiana Guards’ participation in the Battle in Port Hudson or the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York City?
- At Port Hudson, the Black soldiers sing “Amazing Grace,” a hymn originally written by John Newton, an 18th century slave trader. While he underwent a spiritual conversion, he continued in the slave trade for some time. Can you separate the present beauty of art from the past sins of the artist? Can you think of modern examples of this dilemma?
- The sisterhood between Stella and Ammanee plays an important role in the novel. How does the unequal nature of the sisters’ circumstances affect their relationship? How does the relationship change over the course of the story?
- Tilly, Janie and Stella all make sacrifices in the name of motherhood. Were you surprised by any of their choices?
- Love is communicated in many ways in this novel – humming by Tilly, sewing by Stella, quilting and writing by Lily. Are some ways more effective than others? How do you communicate love?
Find Shaunna and Alyson:
The authors can be found online!
Instragram – @shaunnajedwards @alysonrichman
Don’t forget to check out the fabulous Best of Women’s Fiction podcast where Shaunna Edwards and Alyson Richman discuss The Thread Collectors and more: HERE.
Have you read The Thread Collectors? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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Bookish gifts for you or your reader friends!