Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads by S. R. Mallery is an extraordinary collection of 11 short stories with a common ‘thread’, sewing and allied crafts. The stories have an incredible breadth, not only because of the variety of the plots (and they are all very different) but also because of their well-researched and vivid historical settings, and their diverse genres. We go from immigrants in early XX century America, to the slavery period, from mid-Western pioneers, to the Salem witch trials, from the Zodiac serial killer in San Francisco, to a quilting teacher turned sleuth in a cruise, from the Germany of the Nazi era to modern time Native American reservations and everywhere in between. I’m not an expert in quilting (although I’ve always wanted to learn, now even more after reading the book) but this book is a quilt of stories, where each piece and patch brings its own memories to create a complex design, not a crazy quilt but something more than the sum of its parts.
At the heart of the stories are the women, who might use their skills to make a living, to survive and create a better future for those they look after, to express their artistry, to pass on cultural and spiritual traditions, to get revenge, to escape, to fight… Because it’s not only the big gestures that make the society we live in, but each small stich is a piece of the puzzle that is life.
S. R. Mallery brings to life a fantastic array of characters and recreates vividly the historical periods where the stories are set. The reader gets dragged into the moment and shares with the protagonists their unique experiences. If I had to choose one I’d go with ‘Precious Gifts’ that I loved and took me completely by surprise.
I recommend this collection to everybody, whichever your genre of preference, no matter if you like sewing or not. Go and read it. You’ll be amazed and feel better for it.