A Thread of Grace

A Thread of Grace

“There’s a saying in Hebrew,” he tells her, ‘No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there’s always a thread of grace.’”

I lost sleep over this gripping book. Several nights in a row.

Midnight, I’m exhausted, Dom’s sleeping soundly next to me and I know I need to just turn off the light and go to sleep. But I can’t. Just a few more pages. A little more. A little more. Compelling. Addictive.

It’s a historical novel, set in northern Italy during the German occupation (1943-45) and follows a large cast of characters: Italian Jews, Jewish refugees from other parts of Europe, priests, nuns, peasants, children, old ladies, members of the Italian resistance, a German SS doctor. Their movements form a rich tapestry through which is woven the “thread of grace” of the title.

That grace is always in stark contrast with the horrors. Russell doesn’t pull any punches. All the ugliness and brutality, the inhumanity and cruelty, the death and the maiming and the senseless violence of war are portrayed in terrible, nitty-gritty detail. And yet it is done in a way that the brutality emphasizes the slender thread, that would be so easy to miss, of heroism and sacrifice, faith and love that are the best of what humanity has to offer in such times.

I loved Mary Doria Russell’s first two novels, The Sparrow and its sequel, Children of God, both excellent science fiction. I was a little afraid I wouldn’t like this one because it wasn’t science fiction. But I’m glad I gave it a chance. I was richly rewarded for my trouble.

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  • I finished Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” last night. Fantastic book. I’m going to start Quo Vadis this evening, so that is the one nearest me. Here is mine:

    “There were also other ways to slip across the walls, and all of them were quite familiar to slaves who wanted to break out of the city. Vinicius had also taken some steps of his own. He sent slaves out into the countryside to watch all the roads leading from the city and to post rewards with the subprefects in the provinces, but it was unlikely that local authorities would hold anyone just on his demand.”

  • I love Man’s Search for Meaning. It was on my syllabus when I taught a Humanities survey course, a great way to wrap up the semester.

    I’ve never read Quo Vadis. Maybe I should add it to my to be read pile.

  • “I must get it down for Little Cherub, once she stops fixating on Farmyard Tales.”

    Bella actually took it down herself this morning. I have all the picture books on one low shelf, even those that are really too old for her. So we always end up with an interesting mix of things pulled off the shelf. Some she grabs, flips through and tosses to one side, others she brings to me but is almost immediately dissatisfied with.

    There are a few that are obviously not really at her level that nonetheless she keeps bringing back to me. I’m not exactly sure what she wants me to do with them. There’s too much text to really read and not really enough pictures to spend time pointing and hunting.

    The Madeline book is not one I’d have chosen to pull out, simply because it is so big and heavy. We’ve already had a few incidents today of it dropping on her foot. But she seems to like the stories so I forge on ahead. Looks like this is the next fixation. smile

  • My guess is that with Madeline it is the rhyming text that she likes – and maybe the simple drawings too. I’ve noticed Little Cherub sometimes likes plain and simple, slightly old fashioned pictures. And sometimes their tastes are just inexplicable wink. We have a set of non-fiction books written in the early 70s, aimed at age 5 to 7 or so as easy readers. A friend passed them on to us when Angel was small. All three girls have loved them – Angel and Star when they were around 3, but Cherub loves them now. Simple pictures, simple text … but still way above her comprehension level. They have been her bedtime books for the last two or three months. We’ve been through eggs, sun, moon,  mountains, tigers, Germany, making puppets, teeth, and many more … it is an extensive and eclectic selection. Currently it has to be the book about milk. Why?

    Unfortunately our picture books are scattered between different bookshelves and most are out of reach. I have a basket of books in the sitting room for Cherub to choose from and rotate the books in there. It usually has current favourites, library books and two or three others that I hope might appeal.

  • “And sometimes their tastes are just inexplicable wink.”

    Isn’t that the truth!

    I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be better if the bulk of the picture books were out of reach and I could just seed some into a basket that we were reading out of. That way I could put the books I’m really tired of out of circulation and rotate the collection so they are fresh.

    Same thing with the toys. I’ve been thinking about pulling some out and rotating them occasionally. But I’m not really sure where I’d put the ones I’m temporarily retiring. The basement maybe? I’m afraid I wouldn’t remember to change them out if they were completely out of sight for me as well as her.


  • Oops. I just deleted a comment. It’s far too easy to do that with the software I’m using. Surprised I haven’t done so more often. Am reposting it here under my id.

    From: The Bookworm

    I am doing the toy rotating. I store the out of use ones upstairs – some in her room, and some in an IKEA storage unit in her sister’s. As Cherub doesn’t do stairs on her own yet she is limited to what I leave out in the sitting room. I have two good sized shelves which now have three largish baskets, one small one and space to tuck her dolls’ crib away at night. Then there is an old TV table with two shelves where I keep smaller and flat items. That still gives her a good number of “on-the-go” toys. Bear in mind I have a lot of stuff that belonged to the older girls, which could easily overwhelm Little Cherub if I didn’t limit it. Right now this is what she has available:

    Large boxes … (1) dolly stuff; (2) toy tea set and play food (we have lots that belonged to the older girls, so I have just given her plastic bakery items, which I will rotate later); (3) tractor, trailer, fences and farm animals – mainly Playmobil, of which we have a ton. The older two loved it and it all ended up mixed together when they played with it, but for Cherub I am sorting out sets of the more toddler friendly items (farm, zoo, transport, house and so on)

    Small box … a few small plastic people (toddler Playmobil and others), a couple of small vehicles, two In the Night Garden toys, a play phone and a small pull-along caterpillar

    Small shelves … three puzzles, crayons and colouring book, matching picture cards (a favourite), boxed set of Farmyard Tales books

    Then there is the wooden house set I posted about on my blog, her dolls’ crib and dolls’ pushchair, and her pushalong dog. So you see, even limited there is quite a lot there. I’m surprised just how much we still had around that is suitable for her, and toys seem to accumulate even though I try to be selective. What I’m pleased about is that everything is easily accessible and nicely sorted, so that she knows what belongs where and can both find things and put them away. I have grown to hate random, messy toy heaps!

    I think you would remember to rotate things as you would notice when she had lost interest in certain toys. Bored Bella = rotate toys wink. Cherub has ignored the farm stuff for a while, apart from occasionally getting the tractor out, so I’m going to switch that for something else soon – probably either for blocks or for Playmobil vehicles.