Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Title: Hanging by a Thread
Author: Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Pages: 270 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year's Fourth of July festival won't see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing's wrong.

And they're not the only ones hiding something.

Clare, a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people's pasts when she touches their clothes. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year's Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.

In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?


There are a lot of things parents will do for their children. Some will stay in unpleasant situations for the sake of keeping their children safe and happy. Some will break the law (as I learned when my own mother covered what is normally an estimated forty-five minute drive in about twenty minutes trying to get home when something happened to my brother). As well as being a satisfying mystery, Hanging by a Thread is a wonderful illustration of just how far a parent can go for their child.

Clare's descriptions of what she did with clothing made little sense to me (I am not a fashion person in any sense), but they were charged with such authentic passion for what she was doing that I loved them anyway. The only element of the novel stronger than her voice and descriptions were the interpersonal relationships of Clare and her mother. No, that's not right. The relationships of multiple characters with their mothers--Clare's mom with her own mother, Rachel and her mother, and Mrs. Stavros's struggle after her daughter's death, along with Clare and her mom--together really make Hanging by a Thread shine.

Her presence could have been stronger, but I liked to see Clare's mother be given a strong personality and depth when so many books forget about the parents. Her bitterness toward her mother Nana for the trouble Nana's psychometry (a gift that Clare inherited and used relatively well) caused her, the fights she had with Clare over her life--they felt real. I honestly felt sorry for her after some of the things her daughter said to her. I thought a few times that Clare, as good as her intentions were, needed to butt out of her mother's life.

My main problem with this book? Jack. More specifically, the romantic relationship between Clare and Jack. It was insta-love from their first conversation over clothes and it never got any better. Why did they like each other? What interests do they share? I have absolutely no idea why these two people are infatuated with one another. Honestly and truly, this book would have earned itself one more star had it not been for this poorly written romance.

Once Clare gets to using everything she has learned to unravel the mystery, everything she didn't know but needed to know is dumped upon her by another character for two straight chapters. The information itself is shocking because it wasn't an obvious answer to me, but its delivery was so dry and lacking in finesse that all the shock I should have felt was drained away.

One of my friends gave a glowing review to one of Littlefield's other books, but I'm not sure I'll try to read any of her other works after what I've found in Hanging by a Thread. I'm scared the romantic angle will end up messing up an otherwise great book like it did here and I can only take so much of that kind of frustration per year. Meeting my quota so early in the year would not be a good idea, I think. Still, the potential shown in Hanging by a Thread to create strong relationships between family members makes it a possibility.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson