Jesse Holbrooke knows he’s crazy. A failed suicide attempt and months in a mental institution are pretty much the definition of crazy, right? They certainly are in Jesse’s mind. Now he is back at home with his parents and managing a part time job at a bookstore, but he’s far from better. His battle with depression is daily and exhaustive and he knows, on some level, that he’s just going through the motions. Jesse puts on a brave front, but he wonders if can every truly be happy.
And then he meets Adam Foster. Quirky and joyful, Adam is everything that Jesse is not and they should have little in common. But Jesse is drawn to the sweet, young man who sees life as a gift and not a burden. Inch by inch, Jesse discovers the world through Adam’s eyes. For the first time in his life, Jesse begins to realize that happiness is possible. Yet Jesse’s depression remains a constant shadow and he must confront the hard truth of his reality if he wants to begin healing.
The Red Thread was a beautiful, elegantly written novel of one man’s journey through depression. This is one of the few books I’ve read that truly depicts depression in a meaningful way. I believe that people with depression experience the condition differently, but Jesse’s descriptions ring true, at least from my perspective. He is far from a pathetic figure. Instead we see him as a man struggling against impossible odds and managing to tackle each day with a fragile kind of bravery. Unless you have chronic depression, I think it’s hard to fully appreciate how difficult simple things like getting out of bed, interacting with people, and getting to a job can be. But through Jesse we are given a glimpse into how everyday activities become mountains that must be scaled.
And if Jesse is our inspiration, then Adam is a reflection of pure joy. He occasionally seems naive, but we all know someone like Adam, or wish we did. He builds blanket forts and wears bow ties and loves Doctor Who and he is a wonderful reflection of happiness in action. Though, as I said, he occasionally seems naive, he isn’t foolish or immature. Rather he accepts pain and translates it into something life affirming. He can’t “fix” Jesse, but he can bring joy into his life and does with so with patience and determination.
The only moment The Red Thread falters is towards the end of the book. An incident takes place that feels rushed and too quickly glossed over. It also seems somewhat out of character for Jesse at that point, but it can be seen in context as an extension of his depression. I believe this situation needed further development. But overall the book has a strong sense of pacing and the plot is exceptionally strong and this was only a minor blip in an otherwise excellent novel.
The Red Thread is an exceptional book that tackles the realities of depression head on and leaves the reader connected to the characters on multiple levels. There are no easy fixes here and we see Jesse often taking one-step forward and two steps back, but we champion him at every step because of his poignant honesty. Consider The Red Thread strongly recommended for anyone who wants realistic portrayals of depression and happiness in the modern world.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.