Dropped Threads: What We Aren't Told - 2000

Dropped Threads 2: More of What We Aren't Told - 2003

Anthologies of women's writing.
Edited by Carol Shields
and Marjorie Anderson.

Buy the book
        Click here to order.

Buy the book
        Click here to order.

If the value of books were measured by the insights stored within their pages, Dropped Threads would be priceless…[This] is a wonderfully well-written and excellently edited book that offers such intimate insights that it sometimes seems like a stream of consciousness. The compositions frequently make the reader feel like an eavesdropper -- and an extremely entertained one at that…The stories in Dropped Threads cathartically tie up loose ends for their writers, while providing readers with an exquisitely crafted patchwork quilt of life experiences."
- Winnipeg Free Press

There are exciting and truly intimate entries in this book…these women take ideas even secret ones, and infuse them with poetry, scoured and buffed sentences and …stopwatch comic timing…The true depth of the collection is found in these women's clear memories and their willingness to share."
- Quill & Quire

Over 80 Weeks on the Globe and Mail bestseller list!

The idea came up over lunch between two old friends, Marjorie Anderson and Carol Shields. They felt 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 and Marjorie wanted to hear about were the experiences that had brought unexpected pleasure or disappointment, that somehow had caught each woman by surprise. The pieces, woven together, would be a tapestry of stories about things women experience but don't talk about. The resulting book, Dropped Threads, became an instant #1 national 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.

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.
- randomhouse.ca

Read Excerpts from Dropped Threads

Click here to read the Foreword by Marjorie Anderson.
Click here to read the Afterword by Carol Shields.

It's a collection of revealing essays and short stories by 35 Canadian women at mid-life and beyond, reflecting on the life events that caught them off guard and, somehow, haven't been talked about…As it turns out, there are many dropped threads in our lives. Weave them together and you've got a tapestry."
- Bonnie Schiedel, Chatelaine, April 2001

Dropped Threads … is a collection of 34 pieces by Canadian women in which they describe…everything they never said or were not able to say before, but which had tremendous power in their lives…[Senator Sharon Carstairs's] essay about women in politics [is] clear-eyed and devastating …Miriam Toews examines her father's lifelong battle with depression, which culminated in his suicide … with gentleness and insight … These are all the conversations we would wish to have with friends and these essays stimulate the sense of exuberance and relief that one always feels after a long, self-revelatory talk."
- Virginia Beaton, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 25 Feb 2001


Click here to read the Table of Contents of Dropped Threads.
Click here to read the Table of Contents of Dropped Threads 2.

Like the first volume, Dropped Threads 2 features stories by well-known novelists and journalists such as Jane Urquhart, Susan Swan and Shelagh Rogers, but also many excellent new writers including teachers, mothers, a civil servant, a therapist. This triumphant follow-up received a starred first review in Quill and Quire magazine, which called it "compassionate and unflinching." The book deals with such difficult topics as loss, depression, disease, widowhood, violence, and coming to terms with death. Several stories address some of the darker sides of motherhood:

A mother describes how, while sleep-deprived and in a miserable marriage, she is shocked to find infanticide crossing her mind.

Another woman recounts a memory of her alcoholic mother demanding the children prove their loyalty in a terrifying way.

A woman desperate for children refers to the bleak truth as: "Another Christmas of feeling barren." Narrating the fertility treatment she undergoes, the hopes dashed, she is amusing in retrospect and yet brutally honest.

While they deal with loss and trauma, the pieces show the path to some kind of acceptance, showing the authors' determination to learn from pain and pass on the wisdom gained. The volume also covers the rewards of learning to be a parent, choosing to remain single, or fitting in as a lesbian parent. It explores how women feel when something is missing in a friendship, how they experience discrimination, relationship challenges, and other emotions less easily defined but just as close to the bone:

Alison Wearing in "My Life as a Shadow" subtly describes allowing her personality to be subsumed by her boyfriend's

Pamela Mala Sinha tells how, after suffering a brutal attack, she felt self-hatred and a longing for retribution

Dana McNairn talks of her uncomfortable marriage to a man from a different social background: "I wanted to fit in with this strange, wondrous family who never raised their voices, never swore and never threw things at one another"

Humour, a confiding tone, and beautiful writing elevate and enliven even the darkest stories. Details bring scenes vividly to life, so we feel we are in the room with Barbara Defago when the doctor tells her she has breast cancer, coolly dividing her life into a 'before and after.' Lucid, reflective and poignant, Dropped Threads 2 is for anyone interested in women's true stories.
- randomhouse.ca

Dropped Threads is a much-awaited anthology of essays and stories by Canadian women, including celebrated writers as well as women who are neither writers nor famous … The angst of the women in Dropped Threads covers a wide spectrum."
- Paul Gessell, Ottawa Citizen, 20 Jan 2001


Dropped Threads 2
Reviewed by Clara Thomas
Books in Canada

Adrienne Clarkson writes the Foreword to this book; Marjorie Anderson, its chief editor, writes the Introduction and Carol Shields the Afterword. Its collection of "What We Aren't Told" confessionals has impeccable credentials and an overall enthusiasm and professionalism in its conception, planning, writing and publishing. Intrigued by the unexpected success of the original Dropped Threads, Shields and Anderson put out a general call from their website for more essays. They also asked some known writers who responded. The result is a wide-ranging volume whose variety is best appreciated by a leisurely enjoyment of a few at a time rather than a straightforward read-through. I can well understand the enthusiasm with which Anderson writes in her Introduction: "it was an exciting and consuming task....The submissions poured in, each one moving in some way for its honesty and intimacy." The sum-total for the reader, however, would be overwhelming if taken in one dose. A one-word description of the collection would, I believe, be "unpredictable." It is that quality that keeps the reader always questioning, always anxious to turn the next page. ...

Dropped Threads 2
Reviewed by Kim Hughes

It's impossible to overstate the impact of the stories collected in the Dropped Threads 2 anthology, which is instructively subtitled More of What We Aren't Told. A follow-up to 2001's bestselling collection of the same name, Threads 2 places the reader at the very intersection of 35 women's lives and as might be expected, that means tragedy and comedy are equally represented through tales of motherhood, sisterhood, step-motherhood, and much, much more. Marquee names such as novelists Jane Urquhart and Susan Swan, former politician Flora MacDonald, and broadcaster Shelagh Rogers grab initial attention, but all the women contributing end up stealing our hearts, often with their breathtaking honesty. In "In My Mother's Arms," writer Mary Jane Copps details horrific childhood abuse at the hands of an alcoholic mother in prose so urgent that we feel the heat of the stove element beneath our hands. Sarah Harvey startles with her frank confession of contemplating infanticide in "Mother Interrupted," going on, improbably, to make us see the lighter side of mental illness. Several stories actually prompt tears, notably Mary J. Breen's quest for familial understanding in "Nobody Needs to Know" and Debbie Culbertson's coming-of-age-as-a-lesbian-with-children tale, "A Place on the Pavement." Pamela Mala Sinha's story "Hiding," meanwhile, may be the most horrifying yet riveting depiction of rape ever recorded. On the other hand, C.J. Papoutsis's child-rearing memoir, "They Didn't Come with Instructions," is plain hilarious: "By the end of my first week of mothering, my main impressions were that babies were loud, smelly, and sticky and felt as if they were broken." Karen Houle's vivid "Double Arc" presents language so dexterous it could navigate a balancing beam: "Loving a woman is like doing new math: sliding the red balls, all at once, to the other side of the abacus. A satisfying clacking sound--the sound of emphasis falling differently." The vignettes presented in Threads 2 are more than just true-life tales of survival and defeat, love and pain, illness and recovery. They're balm for the spirit. Reading just doesn't get any more satisfying than that.
- Kim Hughes (amazon.ca )

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