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May 4, 2010

Book Notes - Ann Hood ("The Red Thread")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Ann Hood's latest novel The Red Thread is a moving exploration of adoption, specifically of American couples adopting Chinese babies and the parents who give the children up. Maya Lange, who runs a Chinese adoption agency, is a particularly unforgettable character as she attempts to overcome her own grief by helping others.

The Red Thread would make a great book club pick, the novel offers many avenues for thoughtful discussion.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Hood's sensitive depiction of her characters' hopes and fears makes for a moving story of dedication, forgiveness, and love."

In her own words, here is Ann Hood's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, The Red Thread:

In my new novel, The Red Thread, six families are in the process of adopting babies from China through The Red Thread Adoption Agency, which is run by Maya Lange. My husband Lorne and I adopted our daughter Annabelle from China five years ago when she was eleven months old. I was fascinated by the stories of all the families who chose to adopt, and to adopt from China. They often came to the process after many disappointments and losses, as did we. Lorne and I lost our five year old daughter Grace from a virulent form of strep in 2002. I wanted to write about the yearning for a child and family that leads to adoption, and to write about the mothers in China who are forced to abandon their baby girls because of the one child policy there. My niece Melissa burned a CD for Annabelle when we brought her home. I played it until it actually wore out and Melissa had to burn me a replacement copy. Many of those songs became the soundtrack for The Red Thread as I wrote it. Immersing myself in stories of loss and love and in the hopes and dreams we have for our children and ourselves, added more songs to that soundtrack. The concept of the red thread, which tells us that our children are connected to us by an invisible red thread and no matter how tangled or frayed it becomes they are waiting on the other end, drove not only my imagination and my writing, but also reverberated in my real life with Annabelle.

"Oh, Little Baby Girl" by Will Hoge

This is the first song on the CD that Melissa made for us. I cannot listen to it without crying. Hoge sings about the hopes he has for his daughter, and it reminds me not only of the ones I have for Annabelle, but also the ones I had and lost with Grace, and the ones that the mothers in China surely have for the daughters they give up. "Sweet little baby girl, be strong in this great big world…"

"Changes in Latitudes" by Jimmy Buffet

I am a huge Jimmy Buffet fan, and of all his songs this one rings the most true for me. It describes how we make mistakes and have to keep changing and adapting as we go on. All of the characters in The Red Thread are grappling with this. For some of them, adopting at all requires "changes in attitudes." For Maya, who is trying to come to terms with her past in order to move forward, this song could be her anthem.

"Rhode Island Is Famous for You" by Erin McKeown

The Red Thread takes place in Rhode Island, where I live. That setting is important to the novel. The ocean, the slightly dilapidated but beautiful city of Providence and its various neighborhoods, sailing, eating at great restaurants, are all celebrated.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo

Maya Lange lived in Hawaii before she moved to RI and before she opened The Red Thread Adoption Agency. She was married and had a baby daughter then. What happened to destroy that life is a key plot point in The Red Thread. This version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was also on that CD Melissa made, and I loved it so much that it contributed to my decision to give Maya a past story in Hawaii.

"I Will" by The Beatles

This is my favorite love song, ever. The words are so simple, but they say so much so powerfully. They also reflect the idea of The Red Thread. " And when at last I find you, my song will fill the air…" describes that feeling of waiting for the baby who is at the other end of your red thread.

"In My Life" by The Beatles

I know. A second Beatles song. But this one also expresses the themes of love and loss and memories that echo throughout The Red Thread, and throughout my life. Grace was a huge Beatles fan, so I want two songs by them for her. And this song was sung at my wedding to Lorne.

"Shanghai Breezes" by John Denver

Guilty as charged: I love John Denver music! In this song, he sings about the moon he sees in China being the same one his loved one sees at home. I thought about this often while I waited to go to China and bring Annabelle home with us.

"The Red Thread" by Lucy Kaplansky

Yes! Lucy Kaplansky adopted a daughter from China and has a song with this title. Isn’t that the perfect song to finish the soundtrack to my novel, The Red Thread?

Ann Hood and The Red Thread links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
the author's book tour events
the book's video trailer

BookPage review
Library Journal review
Luxury Reading review
Maurice on Books review
Oregonian review
Publishers Weekly review
Seattle Woman Magazine review

CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
The Diane Rehm Show interview with the author
Drinking Diaries essay by the author
Drinking Diaries interview with the author
Reality Chick interview with the author
Salon articles by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly highlights of comics & graphic novels)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly highlights of new books)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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