Blue Thread, by Ruth Tenzer Feldman, for Timeslip Tuesday

Blue Thread, by Ruth Tenzer Feldman (Ooligan Press, 2012) is historical fiction about the women's suffrage movement in 1912 Portland Oregon with a time travel twist.

16 year old Miriam, daughter of a relatively well-off Jewish family in Portland, is desperate to work at her father's printing shop, but he is convinced a woman's place is in the home.  She finds some outlet for her frustration by supporting the suffrage movement, secretly printing cards to hand out at the polling places as Oregon, the last holdout state on the West Coast, votes on the issue.  

Though her family doesn't support women's rights, the strength of Miriam's convictions has been bolstered by a most unexpected source.  A mysterious woman named Serakh, whose abrupt appearance in Miriam's home is tied to Miriam's grandmother's  prayer shawl, leads her on a journey back in time.  Serakh, and the power of the blue thread in the shawl, combine to take Miriam back to several thousand years to inspire a young woman fighting a patriarchal system for her own rights.  Tirtzah is one of the Daughters of Zelophehad, and thanks to Miriam's encouragement, she and her sisters become the first women in Biblical history to own land in their own right.  (I'd never heard of them, and was glad to learn!) And in turn, being part of Tirtzah's story inspires Miriam to take her own future into her own hands.

Blue Thread is good historical fiction; the suffrage movement was brought to life just fine, as were Miriam's' frustrations and her father's disapproval.   Miriam's a believable character who thinks and grows as her story progress, and, in as much as I enjoy books about girls thinking about careers, I appreciated all the ideas she came up with for her father's print shop and her desire to jump in and start working.  It was such good historical fiction, in fact, that it really didn't need the time travel part and would have worked just as well without it.

The trips back to Old Testament times were interesting in their own right, but rather brief, and with little real urgency, drama, or emotional investment.  Miriam basically uses her modern perspective to tell Tirtzah and her sisters what to do, they do it, it kind of works, end of story.  Then for much of the book she doesn't even think about Serakh or Tirtzah.  Likewise the story of the prayer shawl and the history of Miriam's maternal line (including a tragedy in her father's generation) could likewise have been expanded with the narrative threads working more cohesively together.   I am reminded of a gourmet doughnut I had last week, in which the chocolate doughnut would have been perfectly tasty without the additional chocolate doodads stuck on top of it to add gourmet doughnut-ness.  Mystical Serakh, acting as a time travel conductor for Miriam's family for generations for unclear reasons just has to be swallowed without explanation....

Short answer-- if you are willing to take this as good historical fiction and interesting girl seeking career fiction, and don't mind the extras that go along for the ride, do give this one a try!  Though Miriam is 16, the social norms of her time and place are such that she reads a considerably younger than a 16 year old of today, and there's nothing here to make a younger reader uncomfortable, so I think it would work better for 11-12 year olds than for teens.


  1. This sounds like an interesting read. I haven't read many historical fiction stories that take place during the suffrage movement. Great review. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. I actually have had a copy of this languishing in my TBR pile for quite awhile. Now I think I should dig it out and get to it. Thanks for the review.