An Invisible Thread
Eleven-year-old Maurice was very good at reading the faces of the people who passed him as he stood asking for spare change in midtown Manhattan. He could often tell who would stop and give him money for food, and who would pretend he was invisible. So he was surprised when he saw a kind-faced lady approach, and then pass him by; he’d been sure that she would stop. But then, the lady turned around in the middle of the street and came back. Instead of giving him spare change, she offered to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. After that, Maurice and Laura met for dinner every Monday night—for years. Sometimes, it was the only meal Maurice could count on getting that week. As the years passed, their friendship grew. Laura took Maurice to visit her family, hosted him for holiday meals, and attended parent-teacher conferences in place of Maurice’s mother, who was sick with an illness that made it hard for her to pay attention to Maurice. All the while, though, Maurice tried to keep his two communities separate, wondering how Laura’s teachings would ever help him in the world he knew.
An Invisible Thread is an adaptation for young readers of an autobiographical story originally written for adults. It is authored by Laura, the adult in the friendship, but primarily follows the child Maurice’s point of view, as he is closer to the age of the intended readers. Schroff says in an author’s note that she consulted with Maurice, now an adult, to confirm her own memories and to ask him about his own version of the events she narrates. The narrative is warm and engaging, and Maurice’s sweetness comes through. More importantly, the narration grants him and his family dignity. Readers learn of Maurice’s poverty and hunger, but the narrator does not pathologize his life or make him into a pitiable object; the narrator emphasizes that his caring family teaches him to survive and that he knows of his mother’s deep love for him, despite her addiction. The story places heavy emphasis on individual kindnesses and relationships rather than larger-scale solutions; and I could not help but wonder about the experiences of Maurice’s siblings, who did not have a special friendship with a middle-class woman. Nevertheless, this is an engaging story that will be very meaningful to many young readers.
Naomi Lesley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.