The idea came up over lunch between two old friends. There was a need for a book that, eschewing sensationalism and simplistic answers, would examine the holes in the fabric of women’s talk of the last thirty or forty years. The contributors, a cross-section of women, would be asked to explore defining moments in their lives rarely aired in common discourse: truths they had never shared, subjects they hadn’t written about before or otherwise found a place for. What Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson wanted to hear about were the experiences that had brought unexpected pleasure or disappointment, that somehow had caught each woman unawares. The pieces, woven together, would be a tapestry of stories about what women experience but don’t talk about. The resulting book became an instant #1 bestseller.
“Our feeling was that women are so busy protecting themselves and other people that they still feel they have to keep quiet about some subjects,” Carol Shields explained in an interview. Dropped Threads takes as its model the kind of informal discussions women have every day – over coffee, over lunch, over work, over the Internet – and pushes them further, sometimes even into painful territory. Subjects include work, menopause, childbirth, a husband’s terminal illness, the loss of a child, getting old, the substance of women’s friendships, the power of sexual feelings, the power of power, and that nagging question, “How do I look?” Some of the experiences are instantly recognizable; others are bound to provoke debate or inspire readers to examine their own lives more closely.
The book is a collection of short, engaging pieces by more than thirty women, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. Many are mothers, some are grandmothers, and many are professionals, including journalists, professors, lawyers, musicians, a corporate events planner and a senator. Readers will find the personal revelations of some of their favourite authors here, such as Margaret Atwood, Bonnie Burnard, Sharon Butala, Joan Barfoot, Joan Clark and Katherine Govier. Other contributors include:
• Eleanor Wachtel, CBC radio host, talks about her early fears of speaking in public.
• June Callwood, journalist, social activist and a Companion of the Order of Canada, at the age of seventy-six is surprised at her failure to find answers to the imponderable dilemmas surrounding human life, and of her lack of connection to the “apparition” in the mirror.
• Isabel Huggan, short story writer, muses on what she considers the impossibility of mothers passing on knowledge to their daughters, and on her own feeling that “we are girls dressed up in ladies’ clothing, pretending.”
With writing that is reflective, often amusing, poignant, emotional and profound, Dropped Threads is the first book to tackle the lesser-discussed issues of middle age and is the first anthology the editors have compiled together.