Tour: THREADS by Charlotte Whitney


by Charlotte Whitney


GENRE:   Historical Fiction, Women’s Lit, Book Club Lit



It’s a boring, hardscrabble life for three sisters growing up on a Michigan farm during the throes of the Great Depression.  But when young Nellie, digging for pirate treasure, discovers the tiny hand of a dead baby, rumors begin to fly.  Narrated by Nellie and her two older sisters, the story follows the girls as they encounter a patchwork of threatening circumstances and decide to solve the mystery.



When I got home from high school today, Jeepers, I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. Aunt Hazel and Ma were sitting out by the milk house on a couple of turned-over pails, and Irene and Nellie were sitting on the ground close by. All of them were looking towards the lane that goes down to the two meadows and onto the woods and crick. The county sheriff’s car sat empty near the silo. No one was talking.

Worried, I raced across the yard. Could Pa have gotten hurt? As I ran toward Ma I looked over at the west field and saw Ace and King hitched up to the wagon piled with brush. Rover was sleeping near the wagon.

It looked like Pa had finished about half of the field, but he was nowhere in sight. Pa never leaves the horses hitched up when he isn’t working. When he comes up for noontime dinner he al- ways puts them in the barnyard so they can rest, too. Naturally, I panicked.

When Ma saw me running over she jumped up and walked over to me, a strange look on her face.

“Is Pa all right?” I blurted out.

“Yes, yes,” Ma answered. “He and Elmer are down in the woods with Sheriff Devlon.” Nellie pushed me aside and threw her arms around Ma’s legs.

“Nellie thinks there’s a dead baby in the woods,” Irene piped up, all knowingly. “The Sheriff’s gone with them to look at it. Who in their right mind would bury a baby in that woods? Nellie musta gotten it all mixed up.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~Guest Post ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


     My grandparents had three daughters they raised on their small family farm in southern Michigan during the Depression, and that ultimately became my inspiration for THREADS.  However, my grandmother didn’t like to talk about those hard times. Once when I was a child she confided in me that they were “very, very lucky because they only went hungry for a year.”  Even though I was a little girl her words left me with a chill.  Even farmers who had gardens, chickens, pigs, and dairy cows went hungry because everything had to be sold in order to pay the taxes and mortgage. I couldn’t even imagine how it would be to go to bed hungry for a whole year.

   Many years later her words echoed in my mind.  I decided to use their farm as the setting for THREADS, along with three sisters who narrate the story from their own point of view.  Everything after that is pure fiction.  That includes a sinister revivalist preacher, thieves who stole food and horses, a genial peddler with his cart full of goods, and Gypsies camped down near the fairgrounds.

     My vision was to create three sisters with entirely different personalities.  Nellie at age seven would be imaginative, creative, and caught up in her world of fantasy.  This included imaginary friends, such as ZeeZee, a boy from outer space, and two Pottawatomi Indian boys who used to live on their land.  Nellie talks with animals and they talk back.  She sees people dancing in the sky and she hears celestial music.  Irene, at eleven, is much more opinionated, judgmental, and down to earth.  She believes her school teacher is her best friend and that brings up some complications when her teacher is about to be fired.  Also, there’s Flora, seventeen, whose main desire is to get married and become a farm wife.  That goal is thwarted by some ugly rumors.

     Because each girl sees the world through her own lens, there are some variations on the same stories, such as a barn fire, an incident with a rattlesnake, and discovery of some Indian arrowheads.  Nellie, being only seven, is not considered a competent observer by her sisters, but at many times, is uncannily accurate.  Irene, with her superior attitude often puts a spin on events, particularly to create her own reality where her opinions are correct.  Flora floats back and forth from girlhood to adulthood in an age when girls were expected to marry young.

       Originally, my plan was to make the farm a magical place with Nellie’s viewpoint being the most accurate.  Nellie and her friend ZeeZee would fly around in an old school bus getting into trouble.  However, as Nellie’s two sisters became more and more real, I realized that the story I wanted to tell was one of struggle and survival.  There is a mystery to be solved.  There is a romance.  There is tension.  There is drama. But underlying it all is Ma and Pa and the three daughters and the community in which they lived.  Would they all pull through despite the desperate times?  In order to answer that question, I wrote an epilogue, forty years later, set in 1974.  You’ll have to read the story to get the answer. ~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Charlotte Whitney grew up in Michigan and spent much of her career at the University of Michigan directing internship and living-learning programs. She started out writing non-fiction while at the University and switched to romance with I DREAM IN WHITE. A passion for history inspired her to write THREADS A Depression Era Tale chronicling the stories of three sisters on a farm during the throes of the Great Depression. She lives in Arizona, where she loves hiking, bicycling, swimming, and practicing yoga.




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Charlotte Whitney will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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