The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers
Published 1996 by Tyndale House, 401 pages
Genre: Christian women’s fiction

This book traces the stories of two women, separated by 150 years or so. The pioneer, Mary Kathryn, is the ancestor of the modern woman, Sierra, who finds Mary Kathryn’s handmade quilt and diary.  As Sierra’s story unfolds, so does Mary Kathryn’s story in Mary Kathryn’s diary. Both women find themselves on a journey not of their choosing, and both let everyone around them know how unhappy they are, stubbornly clinging to a pattern of blaming others and God for their difficulties. For Sierra, this means a crumbling marriage and looming divorce. For Mary Kathryn, it means making everyone around her miserable on the Oregon Trail.  Finally both realize how self-will has led them away from the Lord, and … well, I can’t tell you everything, can I?

Sierra’s journey means following her husband from Sonoma County in northern California to Los Angeles, to follow his dream of designing videogames. But Sierra’s dream was to stay put in her familiar surroundings. Mary Kathryn’s journey involves following her husband to Sonoma County from someplace in the east, but she just wanted to stay where she was. So these women have plenty in common.

What do I think?

I do love symbolism, and there is a great symbol in this book, introduced right at the end. This explains the title, the Scarlet Thread. I wish the symbolism had been carried throughout the book.

This book is very well told.  Characterization is wonderful; as the reader I am drawn in immediately and can easily identify with both main characters, though they are self-willed and self-centered (so am I). They get themselves in no end of trouble; so have I.  This book has sold half a million copies, and no wonder.

Five stars: *****

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