Title: An Invisible Thread
Author: Laura Schroff with Alex Tresniowski
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Date: January 1st, 2011
This is without a doubt, one of the hardest books to review. I cannot avoid having mixed feelings about this memoir. Not so much because of the writing style, but because of some bad choices the author made affected the child in the story. One side of me wants to commend the author for her compassion shown toward the 11-year-old panhandler, while the other side of me wants to wring her neck for not showing enough backbone when it most counted.
I don’t think so. Let me explain why.
One day Laura Schroff, a busy NYC ad executive, ran across an 11-year-old panhandler who asked for change. Barely registering him, Laura kept walking halfway across the street, only to change her mind. She walked back to the boy, Maurice, and bought him lunch at McDonald’s instead. Her act of kindness toward the child resulted in an unlikely friendship that has lasted over 25 years.
“If you make me lunch,” Maurice said, “will you put it in a brown paper bag?…Because when I see kids come to school with their lunch in a paper bag, that means that someone cares about them. Miss Laura, can I please have my lunch in a paper bag?”
Today, Maurice has been happily married for almost 20 years and has a house full of children.
- Laura talks about concepts such as destiny and fate. In doing so, she gives you faith that there is more to life than mere chance. It’s a good book to read for those days when everything is going wrong, and you wonder if any of the crap going on in your life has a reason. Laura makes you believe that there is always a way out.
- No one can argue that Laura’s act of kindness was singular. Even though some may argue that her weekly ritual of inviting Maurice (a street kid…shocking!!) to her house to make cookies was naive, I disagree. I think Laura had a gut feeling that this kid was worth the risk. Sometimes you have to follow that gut feeling, even if your actions make sense to one else.
- Maurice was a street kid that came from a violent background. Abandonment, brutality, and starvation were the norm for him. When you take all this into consideration, it is amazing how determined he was to survive and start a better life for his future generations. This book accurately portrayed this ugly side of life that most people would prefer to pretend doesn’t exist. I commend Laura for showing street life for what it is, and for showing us what a fighter Maurice proved to be.
- As much as I admire Laura’s act of kindness toward Maurice, I can’t help but want to shake her for getting married to a man who soon proved to be both domineering and inconsiderate of her relationship with Maurice. Even before they were married, the man never attempted to show any small measure compassion toward Maurice. He forbade Laura from including Maurice to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas. And Laura let him…
- Laura’s past was turbulent as well, although not quite to the same extreme as Maurice’s. However, I would never undermine her own pain and horror as a child, because growing with an alcoholic father as she did, was probably as damaging as Maurice’s abusive background too. We can see how this lead to her lack of backbone in letting her husband reject Maurice, thus unconsciously letting Maurice down. In a way, during the extent of her short marriage, Laura abandoned the 11-year-old she had once sworn she would never forsake.
- My last and most vehement annoyance against this book is that the title and cover are misleading. They give you the impression that the book is mainly about Laura’s and Maurice’s relationship across the span of 25 years. Yet almost half of the book is focused on Laura’s hard childhood. It almost reads as if it was Laura’s memoir, instead of the miraculous story of two unlikely friends who met under equally miraculous circumstances. This book need at least twice more of Maurice in it. And I would have also have liked to see his voice in it as well. There are several times in the book where Maurice almost fades into the background.
All pros and cons set aside, I still think this book is a good read.
Particularly if you’ve had a hard past or have worked with children from dysfunctional homes. Despite the book’s flaws, you cannot help but feel uplifted by Maurice’s ambition and positive outlook on life.