The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers came highly recommended by my friend Erika. She and I are pretty much on the same wavelength concerning literature, which is such a blessing. It’s so great to have a friend who has the same tastes as you, whose recommendations you can take to heart and not be disappointed. Besides, she said the magic words: “It’s a lot like Redeeming Love”. My favourite book!
Sierra and Alex live a quiet life in a small town, in a cosy home with their two children, surrounded by family. One morning Alex pulls the rug out from under an unsuspecting Sierra, sending their carefully crafted world into disarray. Without first consulting her, he quits his job, accepts a new one, contacts an estate agent to put their house on the market, and sets about moving the family to Los Angeles – away from the town she’s lived in all her life, away from their families. Once in LA Sierra is an embittered wife, hating life in their small, impersonal apartment. Loneliness and uncertainty become her constant companions as Sierra is surrounded by rich LA housewives she feels she can’t measure up to, and qualified women who leave her insecure. Sierra’s mother then sends her the diary of Mary Catherine Murray, one of her ancestors. The two women, though separated by centuries, have a lot in common and share similar trials, and Sierra soon finds solace in its pages. As months pass and Alex spends less time at home, Sierra’s nurtured feelings of resentment grows into a powerful force that eats away at their marriage – it doesn’t help that Alex starts seeking comfort in the arms of another woman. As Alex moves further away from Sierra, she draws ever closer to God. With no one to lean on in the most difficult and painful time of her life, Sierra follows Mary Catherine’s example and learns to surrender to God's sovereignty and unconditional love.
Alex soon notices the change in his wife, and when she finally agrees to give him a divorce it is Alex who finds himself unsure if he truly wants their marriage to end. As Sierra and the children grow in their faith, Alex sees the happy, lively, amazing woman he fell in love with – the hurt, bitter woman who moved to LA nowhere to be found. When it becomes clear that a friend of Sierra’s is vying for her heart, and more disturbingly that she might be ready to hand it over, Alex must finally face the consequences of his actions and win his wife’s heart once more.
In her contemporary works Francine Rivers likes to confront her readers with very difficult questions. In The Scarlet Thread we face the reality of adultery – how is a Christian supposed to react when cheated on by a spouse? The Bible tells us to forgive and forget, but how do you find the strength to forgive and forget wounds that cut deeper than any woman can explain? When your husband cheats on you, emotionally abuses you and leaves you feeling worthless, how do you forgive, forget and consider reconciliation? The Scarlet Thread poses some very hard questions, and some very realistic solutions. Only God can help you get over that kind of hurt and give you the strength to forgive.
The Scarlet Thread is not one of my favourite Francine Rivers books (I tend to prefer her historical novels), but only because its tone is very dark. It is an emotionally taxing book. My heart physically hurt for Sierra. With every emotional back-handed blow Alex delivered, a pain literally shot through my heart. It is not easy sharing Sierra’s journey – perhaps because being cheated on by your husband is a very real fear for most women, and being confronted with all the aspects surrounding a failing marriage is difficult to take.
Personally I found myself hoping Sierra would move on with a man who treated her better, like Ron - he clearly adored her. I just could not get myself to be hopeful for a reconciliation between Alex and Sierra. It could be because I didn’t find Alex a likable character and I just wasn’t emotionally invested in him at all. I just couldn’t get past all of the things he did to Sierra – maybe that means I have some soul searching to do; Maybe that is the point of it all.
How, you may ask, is this book similar to Redeeming Love? It’s about letting someone go and giving them to God. While The Scarlet Thread did not take Redeeming Love’s place in my heart, I am not sorry I read it. At the end of the day The Scarlet Thread is a spiritual book that confronts the reader with uncomfortable truths – the best kinds of books not only teach you something about yourself, but also inspire you to look inside yourself and ask some very hard questions. In this regard The Scarlet Thread is a masterpiece.
Title: The Scarlet Thread
Title: The Scarlet Thread
Author: Francine Rivers
Number of pages: 448
Publisher: Tyndale House