An Invisible Thread

An Invisible Thread

The True Story of An 11-year-old Panhandler, A Busy Sales Executive, and An Unlikely Meeting With Destiny

Book - 2011
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In the tradition of the New York Times bestseller The Blind Side , An Invisible Thread tells of the unlikely friendship between a busy executive and a disadvantaged young boy, and how both of their lives changed forever.

"Excuse me lady, do you have any spare change? I am hungry."

When I heard him, I didn't really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noise--the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I walked right by him, as if he wasn't there.

But then, just a few yards past him, I stopped.

And then--and I'm still not sure why I did this--I came back.

When Laura Schroff first met Maurice on a New York City street corner, she had no idea that she was standing on the brink of an incredible and unlikely friendship that would inevitably change both their lives. As one lunch at McDonald's with Maurice turns into two, then into a weekly occurrence that is fast growing into an inexplicable connection, Laura learns heart-wrenching details about Maurice's horrific childhood.

The boy is stuck in something like hell. He is six years old and covered in small red bites from chinches--bed bugs--and he is woefully skinny due to an unchecked case of ringworm. He is so hungry his stomach hurts, but then he is used to being hungry: when he was two years old the pangs got so bad he rooted through the trash and ate rat droppings. He had to have his stomach pumped. He is staying in his father's cramped, filthy apartment, sleeping with stepbrothers who wet the bed, surviving in a place that smells like something died. He has not seen his mother in three months, and he doesn't know why. His world is a world of drugs and violence and unrelenting chaos, and he has the wisdom to know, even at six, that if something does not change for him soon, he might not make it.

Sprinkled throughout the book is also Laura's own story of her turbulent childhood. Every now and then, something about Maurice''s struggles reminds her of her past, how her father's alcohol-induced rages shaped the person she became and, in a way, led her to Maurice.

He started by cursing my mother and screaming at her in front of all of us. My mother pulled us closer to her and waited for it to pass. But it didn't. My father left the room and came back with two full liquor bottles. He threw them right over our heads, and they smashed against the wall. Liquor and glass rained down on us, and we pulled up the covers to shield ourselves. My father hurled the next bottle, and then went back for two more. They shattered just above our heads; the sound was sickening. My father kept screaming and ranting, worse than I'd ever heard him before. When he ran out of bottles he went into the kitchen and overturned the table and smashed the chairs. Just then the phone rang, and my mother rushed to get it. I heard her screaming to the caller to get help. My father grabbed the phone from her and ripped the base right out of the wall. My mother ran back to us as my father kept kicking and throwing furniture, unstoppable, out of his mind.

As their friendship grows, Laura offers Maurice simple experiences he comes to treasure: learning how to set a table, trimming a Christmas tree, visiting her nieces and nephew on Long Island, and even having homemade lunches to bring to school.

"If you make me lunch," he said, "will you put it in a brown paper bag?"

I didn't really understand the question. "Okay, sure. But why do you want it in a brown paper bag?"

"Because when I see kids come to school with their lunch in a brown paper bag, that means someone cares about them."

I looked away when Maurice said that, so he wouldn't see me tear up. A simple brown paper bag , I thought.

To me, it meant nothing. To him, it was everything.

It is the heartwarming story of a friendship that has spanned thirty years, that brought life to an over-scheduled professional who had lost sight of family and happiness and hope to a hungry and desperate boy whose family background in drugs and crime and squalor seemed an inescapable fate.

He had, inside of him, some miraculous reserve of goodness and strength, some fierce will to be special. I saw this in his hopeful face the day he asked for spare change, and I see it in his eyes today. Whatever made me notice him on that street corner so many years ago is clearly something that cannot be extinguished, no matter how relentless the forces aligned against it. Some may call it spirit. Some might call it heart. Whatever it was, it drew me to him, as if we were bound by some invisible, unbreakable thread.

And whatever it is, it binds us still.
Publisher: Nashville, Tenn. : Howard Books, c2011.
Edition: First Howard Books hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781451642513
1451642512
9781451648973
Branch Call Number: 974.71 SCHROFF
Characteristics: xviii, 238 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Tresniowski, Alex

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l
lilypad_1
Apr 29, 2017

I really enjoyed this narrative. I would love to learn about similar stories, I wonder if I have passed up similar opportunities to help someone. I think it opened my mind to other people's situations in life and reminds me not to be judgemental, "there but for the grace of God go I". I am glad she shared her story and hope it inspires us all to open our lives to others thoughts, way of life, culture, religion, etc.

q
Quietday
Apr 01, 2017

There was more to this book than I anticipated when I picked it up. I imagined something like a Chicken Soup for the Soul type story. This isn't a literary classic but the story has some real value.

I think what really matters is that on a human level, despite our varying life circumstances, we experience the same emotions and struggles. Some reviews have criticized her personal story but I think it was very relevant, especially her relationship with her parents. I was surprised when she told the part about them all as children in the car with her raging father behind the wheel. I know a similar story from my mother's family, one from my own family and my son could tell one about his father. There are common threads for all of us.

Any act of kindness and nurturing, even when it cannot be sustained, strengthens resilience in children. Studies show that. Some spark of hope can be enough to motivate them and remind them that someone cared.

m
MelatSCPL
Mar 17, 2017

Readers should remain highly sceptical of 'True Stories', especially when the author is his/her own protagonist. An INVISIBLE THREAD serves as an example as to why.
Writing the book may have proved cathartic for Ms. Schroff, but reading it proved boring to me: far too self-aggrandizing and sycophantic for my liking (Yeah, everybody look at me!).
I can just imagine the New York Times want-ad; "Well-off, white, middleclass , liberal woman seeks, young, underprivileged, black kid needing me to lift him up by his boot straps. Object - to assuage my liberal guilt resulting from a privileged life."
Ms. S. had an violent, alcoholic father. So! Get over it.

PinesandPrejudice Mar 09, 2017

3.5 - This was an endearing story. I'll admit, I struggled with it. It's very similar to "The Blind Side" and some of the parts about her privilege and his lower class and their races bothered me. It was unsettling and I don't know if that was in a good way or a bad way. That being said, if you look at it as a story about two people who found each other, and who helped heal each other: it's beautiful. It's honest and evokes such empathy. That's why I liked it.

bibliotechnocrat Jun 10, 2015

The Dickensian difference between the lives of the privileged white narrator and the panhandling kid provides some insight into the lives of the inner city poor. Laura, an advertising exec, is somehow drawn to this child, and begins to provide him with meals and other necessities. Inadvertently she also gives him a framework for another kind of life and he is ultimately able to apply the lessons and make a life for himself. Heartwarming and inspiring, to be sure, but somehow the text is unsatisfying. I never got past the uncomfortable feeling that the narrator had never properly analyzed her motivations.

d2013 Nov 18, 2014

Busy with her own agenda as a sales executive it was never in her plans to stop that day but something made her go back and by this act of kindness it changed her life and that of an 11 year old panhandler forever. A beautiful inspiring true story!

sweetpea43 Aug 01, 2014

A good read - sometimes shocking in the content - but an honest portrayal of life in the streets and projects of New York.

t
TheresaAJ
Jul 15, 2014

This nonfiction work reads like a novel which should promote an interesting discussion at the July Willa Cather Book Club. Although Laura Schroff and Maurice Mazyck come from different economic worlds, they share a common bond of abusive childhoods. This quick read follows the 10-year journey from an almost missed encounter on a Manahattan street to a mother-son relationship that changes both their lives. This book is a good choice for a book club as it explores the themes of overcoming adversity, family, and good vs. bad choices.

e
Edwin423
Feb 09, 2014

alelf sedoque alobob sbroe alsfo joosf!

Book 11 formd olf!

Sagastoan

bake1225 Sep 29, 2013

Would prefer hard copy over paperback.

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dixiedog
Jan 26, 2013

dixiedog thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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angelflyer
Feb 28, 2013

In An Invisible Thread (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster) by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski, Schroff—a former ad executive— chronicles her friendship with an 11-year-old homeless boy that helped both of them find healing from their violent, troubled childhoods.--The Christophers, Inc.

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