Interview with Ruth Tenzer Feldman, author of The Blue Thread Saga and My Review of Seven Stitches

Seven Stitches, (The Blue Thread Saga), (2017, 300 pages) is the third in a series of three books by Ruth Tenzer Feldman that also includes Blue Thread, and The Ninth Day. The books are described by the author as “companion books” and can be enjoyed in any order. Feldman notes that Seven Stitches is appropriate for readers ages 12 and older.

Summary from Goodreads: It’s been a year since the Big One–the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake–devastated Portland, and while Meryem Zarfati’s injuries have healed and her neighborhood is rebuilding, her mother is still missing. Refusing to give up hope, Meryem continues to search for her mother even as she learns to live without her in a changed Portland. After she receives a magical prayer shawl handed down from her maternal grandmother, a mysterious stranger appears, and Meryem is called to save a young girl living in slavery–in sixteenth-century Istanbul. The third companion in the Oregon Book Award-winning Blue Thread series explores how we recover–and rebuild–after the worst has happened.

 

Author Interview

Author bio from Goodreads:
Ruth is an award-winning author of books and articles, mainly for children and young adults. Her three companion novels…Blue Thread, The Ninth Day, and Seven Stitches…combine speculative and historical fiction with a time travel twist. Blue Thread won the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature in 2012 and was listed by the American Library Association as one of the best feminist books for young adults. Ruth’s 10 nonfiction books focus on history and biography, while her articles range from leeches to Einstein’s refrigerator. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, innumerable dust mites, and a vivid imagination.

1. TTx2: What decisions did you have to make about what the year 2058 would look like? Was it any harder to imagine positive aspects about the future than negative aspects?
RTF: Good questions! I approached the future in ways that I have approached the past, both in my nonfiction and fiction writing: research, research, research. I studied trends in all sorts of areas, from energy generation and paleogenetics to housing, food production, and climate change. I read Oregon’s Resilience Plan, which presents a detailed picture of what to expect after a megaquake off the Oregon coast. I imagined a world, based on demographic trends, where a larger portion of the younger generation would have a mixed heritage. After reading articles on communications and cyber-hacking, I imagined 2058 with stricter limitations on social media than we have now—and this was before our latest concerns about “weaponizing” Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. Positive aspects? Negative? It’s complicated.

And then, after all this research, I couldn’t resist keeping a bit of today’s Portland, namely our chickens and goats. Somehow they needed to be part of the future, too.

2. TTx2: How much of an outline for all three books did you have before you started writing them?
RTF: I envisioned each book separately, so there wasn’t an outline for the Blue Thread saga as a whole. However, I established rules for time travel and the limits on the guide Serakh in the first book—Blue Thread—and stuck to those constraints throughout. Each book begins its existence as a jumble of ideas and characters. After I figure out what intrigues me, I coax the jumble into a narrative outline. I do, however, have a HUGE timeline, stretching from about 5,000 years ago until about 50 years from now. That timeline mixes real and imagined people doing all sorts of real and imagined activities. Only a tiny sliver of those events, maybe five percent, winds up in a book.

3. TTx2: Which of the three books did you enjoy writing most? Why?
RTF: I have a special place in my heart for The Ninth Day, because it’s the middle book and I’m a middle child, and because the storyline there is the most challenging of the three books. The book I enjoyed writing most, however, is Seven Stitches. Time travel plus the future? What could be bad? Now that’s what I call fun.

4. TTx2: If you could time travel to the past for a couple of weeks where/when would you go?
RTF: Wow, that’s a tough one. So many places; so many times. I’ve settled on  Shetland (those Scottish Isles where the Atlantic meets the North Sea) in, say, August of 1900. Queen Victoria is still alive, and the future Queen Elizabeth I has just been born. Winds sweep across the croft where I stay as I help my hosts with the weaving and care for the ponies, eat the sea’s bounty, and draw nourishment from the stark and beautiful landscape, rich with Norse culture and secrets buried among the stones. Not very exotic, I admit, but, oh, so good for my writer’s soul!

My Review

For me, what stands out about Seven Stitches is the fascinating blend of time travel to the ancient past, combined with the depiction of life forty years in the future. Offhand, I can’t think of other novels that share that mix. The modern daily life of Meryem and her friends and family is more recognizable than that in many stories that depict a more remote future. In this book, Feldman seems to have taken many trends we see today and extended them in a logical way, depicting a 2058 that I found very believable. Some details of this envisioned future life are really fun to picture, such as the indoor vertical garden which produced vegetables, and the roasted crickets snack mix! In this story, the time travel to the past is episodic, with Meryem going to Istanbul three times. On these journeys, vivid details about clothing and     make the story come alive. At times, I got confused about the lineage/names of people in Istanbul, but I found I could understand the narrative just fine without stopping to sort it out. I liked the Jewish history woven into this history of ancient Turkey.

Meryem is a believable main character. She is often depressed and irritable, which is understandable, given that she is suffering from the kind of suspended grieving that one must go through when one has a family member that disappears. There are also some very endearing supporting characters, my favorite being a formerly homeless military vet named Mr. Rivera. Mr. Rivera may or may not have a mental illness, but in any case is able to use his reputation as being crazy to help others when the authorities threaten the well-being of Meryem’s houshold.

The story manages to touch on several “PC” issues, including feminism, LGBTQ issues, vegetarianism, etc., so left-leaning readers will find a lot to smile about. Of course, the pet goats were icing on the cake. (Here I am with a baby goat last weekend!)

I really did not know how several threads in the plot (forgive me, it’s almost impossible not to use a pun when reviewing this book) were going to resolve until the very end of the story.

I wouldn’t have known about this great book had I not seen this great list on timetravelnexus.com. (Thanks, Craig.)

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