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Discussion Questions: THE WISHING THREAD by Lisa Van Allen

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Allen_The Wishing Thread “Reader to reader, knitter to knitter: You’re going to love this book.”—Debbie Macomber

The Wishing Thread is an enchanting novel about the bonds between sisters, the indelible pull of the past, and the transformational power of love. The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1.  The three sisters, Bitty, Aubrey, and Meggie, are each very different and have spent a lot of time apart, but despite everything they all find their way back home upon the death of the aunt who raised them. What does the novel have to say about the bonds of sisterhood?

2.  Each sister rejects, deals with, or embraces the idea of magic in her own way. Which sister do you relate to most? Are there themes in this book that run parallel with (or contrary to) the tenets of your faith community or your own personal ideas and beliefs?

3.  At one point, Aubrey thinks “if the Madness was real, then the sacrifice of being a guardian of the Stitchery was a bigger, scarier thing than any single sacrifice made in the name of a single spell.” What is the connection between the Madness and magic? Do you think the Madness will continue to follow the family after the Stitchery is gone?

4.  Why do you think Bitty started out so rebellious, but was so quick to embrace a socially acceptable lifestyle in adulthood and to distance herself from her sisters and the Stitchery?

5.  Aubrey struggles with confidence throughout the book. What do you think was the main turning point for her? What made her believe in herself?

6.  Meggie drops everything to go looking for the truth about her mother. Is there anything from your past you’d like to get to the bottom of?

7.  Why do you think Aubrey feels that she can’t give in to her attraction to Vic?

8.  The women of Tappan Square band together on Halloween Night to produce a feat of, if not magic, at the very least of remarkable artistry. What were the true effects of the yarn bombing? Do you feel the conclusion of the book indicates that magic is literally at work, that magic is something people choose to see, or that magic is what we make of it?

9.  Were you upset by the fate of Tappan Square? What does this novel have to say about gentrification?

10.  After Aubrey sacrifices Vic to save Tarrytown, she takes him back even though the Great Book in the Hall says she shouldn’t. How does she justify her actions? Was she right to take him back or should she have stayed true to her legacy?

11.  The old Stitchery is no more but something remarkable happens instead. What do you think is the legacy of the Stitchery and how does it live on?

12.  In the end, Aubrey comes to accept uncertainty. She thinks “The Stitchery had made a thing very clear to her—-a thing she did not see until now: Whatever the Van Ripper guardians had said magic was, was only a very small part of it, if it was part at all.” Do you feel this is a step forward in her understanding? Or is it an excuse that allows Aubrey to reshape tradition according to her own ideas? What are your feelings about embracing irresolution and uncertainty?

13.  What do you predict for the next generation of the Stitchery, Bitty’s children Nessa and Carson?

14.  There are many themes in this novel: sisterhood, love, civic responsibility, magic, and self–determination, among others. Which one resonated the most for you?

15.  If the sisters of the Stitchery lived in your town, what would you ask them to knit, and for whom? What would you sacrifice for your spell?

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