Seven Stiches, by Ruth Tenzer Feldman (Ooligan Press, Feb. 2017), is both a time travel story and a gripping YA novel about a girl coping with the loss of her mother that's set in a near future America. The year is 2058, the place is Portland, and the global warming has not been kind, but has not yet been catastrophic. Meryam and her biologist mom live in a big old house and keep chickens and goats; things are much like now, only different in believable ways. But then the earthquake hits, the Big One. And Meryam's mom was down on the coast that day, and she doesn't come home. Months pass with no word, but Meryam can't give up hope. Her home has been filled by other people--her African American/Vietnamese/Jewish grandmother and her great aunt have moved in, people in need of shelter have been rehoused under her roof, and Bandon, a young man who's part of a forbidden organization fighting homelessness, has shown up to offer the services of his male goat to Meryam's surviving female one, and ends up staying too.
Meryam throws herself into the busyness of everyday life as best she can, but can barely distract from her conviction that her mother is still alive. Reading along, I expected Bandon to be a typical YA distraction, and Meryam to find connections to her grandmother, and for her to find some big sense of purpose, and to an extent these things happen....except that Bandon is gay (and says so right at the beginning), her grandmother not really the connecting type, and her sense of purpose external to her own life is sort of a one shot deal.
But there's also the distraction of time travel. A mysterious woman, Serakh, shows up out of nowhere in Meryam's house, explaining that women in past generations of Meryam's family have been in the habit of time travelling to do necessary things in the past, and that now she has come to take Meryam back in the past to do a necessary thing--to save a little girl in 16th century Constantinople from slavery. And there in the past the thread of her own story is twisted, all to briefly, with a bit of her mother's. Time travel with Serakh is made easy with universal language comprehension, and though there are difficulties and twists to the adventure in the past that made things interesting, I didn't read it with the same intent immersion as I did the story of Meryam's present day life.
That being said, it's a book I recommend with conviction (I read it first in January, and have just now read it again, and didn't mind in the least!) but I'm not convinced that the time travel is sufficiently integrated into the central narrative of Meryam's life. I think that even if it were cut out completely, there'd still be a really good, really solid YA sci-fi-ish story to enjoy. That being said, I didn't mind the time travel, and it does give both Meryam and the reader plenty of food for thought....but it was fairly mundane time travel compared to the details of Meryam's real life which I found much more interesting (this could be just me, as I tend to enjoy lots of description of mundane details of house and garden tasks, which is perhaps Sad, as Donald Trump would say, but there it is). So in the end, I'd really suggest reading this one for a fascinating near future YA growing up/coping with grief story, at which it excels!
This is the third book by Ruth Tenzer Feldman about Serakh and the blue thread that binds her to Meryam's family, the others being Blue Thread, and The Ninth Day, both of which I'm going to look for now for future timeslip Tuesdays!
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher