Blue Thread

Ruth Ten­z­er Feldman
  • Review
By – August 7, 2012

2012 marks the 100th anniver­sary of the suc­cess of the women’s suf­frage move­ment in Ore­gon. One of their ban­ners reads, Like the daugh­ters of Zelophe­had we ask for our inher­i­tance.” In the Bible, the Daugh­ters peti­tioned Moses for their father’s land since he had died with­out any sons. Aston­ish­ing­ly, Moses ruled in their favor, set­ting a Bib­li­cal prece­dent for women’s rights. Ruth Ten­z­er Feld­man takes that con­cept and spins a pow­er­ful com­ing of age sto­ry that takes place on two time­lines. In 1912, six­teen-year-old Miri­am meets the mys­te­ri­ous Bib­li­cal fig­ure Ser­akh, daugh­ter of Ash­er. Using Miriam’s prayer shawl, which con­tains an ancient blue thread, Ser­akh takes Miri­am back to the time of the Daugh­ters and chal­lenges her to make a dif­fer­ence, to stand up for what is right, in both the past and the present. The shawl reminds Miriam’s father of a painful fam­i­ly tragedy so, to spare his feel­ings, the moth­er hides it, of course at a cru­cial moment in the sto­ry. Miri­am must devel­op courage and use her intel­li­gence as well as her under­stand­ing of her family’s dynam­ics. As Miri­am grows from a spoiled socialite into her des­tiny, the author exam­ines expec­ta­tions for young women and their roles in fam­i­ly life both in ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry soci­ety and the larg­er world. 

Blue Thread is part his­to­ry les­son, part Torah study and a fast-paced fan­ta­sy and adven­ture, with a touch of romance. Miriam’s sto­ry is as valid for today as it was in 1912 and in Bib­li­cal times. Ruth Ten­z­er Feldman’s writ­ing is beau­ti­ful, terse, and imag­i­na­tive. Recom­mended for ages 12 and up.

Sydelle Shamah has been lead­ing book club dis­cus­sions for many years, and is a pub­lished sci­ence fic­tion writer. She was pres­i­dent of the Ruth Hyman Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Mon­mouth Coun­ty, NJ.

Discussion Questions