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As a child, I listened to my mother's stories about her year in quarantine as a 19-year-old TB patient in St. Paul, MN in the mid-1940s. At 46 years old, upon my mother's death, I discovered for the first time that I'd been secretly adopted as an infant. As a writer, I've tapped my passion for fiction to dig myself out of the mysterious hole I found myself in regarding my own origins, and to explore how women such as my mother and birth mother might have overcome their challenges as young Catholic women in an optimistic, but socially restrictive post-World War II culture. I'm pleased to finally share the story of Shannon and Eliza Malone with you...


AUDIO-BOOK Available May 1, 2020


Can love for a secret child heal old wounds?

St. Paul, Minnesota, 1946: Introspective Shannon Malone and her more popular sister Eliza are Irish twins and best friends. As little girls, they relied on each other for companionship and affection as their mother remained distant, beating back the demons of her own mysterious childhood. In the summer of 1946, as womanhood approaches, both look forward to supporting each other in promising--though different--futures. Instead, tragedy rocks the Malone family to the core, secrets bloom and one sister leaves, possibly forever.

The other, physically and emotionally scarred, vows to hold the invisible thread that runs between them. In the course of her journey, she discovers a child with a hidden past, the love of a good man, and the true meaning of family. But is it enough to bring her sister home?

  • "Two sisters, two secrets and two lives forever altered, uncovering unhealed wounds: this is the major theme of A Thread So Fine A Thread So Fine is a psychologically acute family story about the interwoven bond between two sisters, Eliza and Shannon, weaving an invisible thread running through their lives from 1946-1965.  In "A Thread So Fine" the complexity, darkness and opacity of a family emerges. She wondered what her mother meant when she'd said she'd once let go.   She [Eliza) thought of her own letting go--of the horrible truth she could never allow herself to fully recall, a well-guarded secret kept from everyone.  Everyone, and most importantly, from her carefully groomed and future self. Heart-broken and scarred, both Eliza and Shannon discover the true meaning of family and sisterhood in a backdrop of ghosts:  men returning from the Second World War, parents and their own backstories their children are unaware of, sibling rivalry, religion, and unintended consequences.  In this page-turner the reader sees not only what goes on around the characters and to them, but what goes on inside them. In A Thread So Fine the reader will live through the well-constructed story along with Eliza and Shannon!  This gripping first novel announces the arrival of a strong, distinct and fully evolved new voice."
  • “The intense love shared by two sisters is challenged by crises in Welch’s debut novel, set in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Ithaca, New York, during the mid-20th century... In skillful, straightforward prose, Welch sets her character-driven narrative against the backdrop of postwar societal changes. Along the way, she implicitly contrasts the more traditional St. Paul society with the nascent progressive movements in Ithaca. The addictive melodrama weaves a tale of secrets, misunderstandings, resentments, and squandered opportunities for reconciliation that keep the sisters apart for almost two decades. Shannon, the more creative of the two siblings, is a more fully drawn character than Eliza, and readers get to know her more intimately through her unmailed letters. A strangely ethereal epilogue offers a mostly satisfying conclusion, even if it leaves a few questions unanswered. An engaging and poignant historical novel. —Kirkus Reviews
  • As romances, politics, and trauma arise for each sister, patterns of the past threaten to overwhelm and separate their connections: "Eliza pulled the receiver away from her face and brought it to her chest, her mind reeling. Again, Fa was asking her to bury her needs in the shadow of Shannon’s trauma. Again, pushed aside by Shannon’s neediness." Can the ties that bind prove changeable rather than breakable? Some things never change, and readers who undertake the journey of this evolving relationship between two sisters from childhood to adulthood will find that A Thread So Fine lassos the heart with stories of close connections tested by life's progression. Readers of women's fiction who especially enjoy stories of sister relationships will relish this engrossing saga of change and survival. —Midwest Book Review
  • There are so many issues in this beautifully written book: unwed mothers, veterans with PTSD, violence against women, a broken family, women’s ambitions, and adoption. Welch makes her readers ache for these two sisters and their unnecessary separation for so many years. This is one of those rare novels that forces you to sit for a few minutes after you’ve finished reading it until you are ready to return to the real world. —Mary Ann Grossmann, Twin Cities Pioneer Press
    Reviewed by Mary Ann Grossmann
    Twin Cities Pioneer Press
  • “Ms. Welch was herself adopted and this journey provided the impetus for her to write this wonderful book. I fell in love with the characters and their separate journeys. If you are searching for a wonderful summer read this may be the book for you.” —Michelle Kaye Malsbury of Bookpleasures.com
  • “A touching story about family; A Thread So Fine will captivate and enlighten you...Susan Welch is a very talented writer; the story flows well and her attention to detail is fascinating. This book teaches you that not every family is perfect, and when things go wrong, you must take care of yourself.” —Reedsy Discovery
  • A Thread so Fine is a compelling tale of a family undone and remade.  Welch, the author, perfectly captures the Midwest upper class of the mid-20th century and (slyly) foreshadows the feminist issues that are at the forefront today.  
  • "Irish twins navigate late-1940s Minnesota and their turbulent relationship in debut author Welch’s genuine story of family loyalty, misfortune, and potential. Born 11 months apart, plain and traditional Shannon Malone competes with, and is often bossed around by, her younger, more beautiful, and overachieving sister, Eliza. At 18, Shannon is quarantined in the hospital with tuberculosis, where she bonds with the women of her ward over being survivors. Meanwhile, Eliza, the pride of her professor father, enters college and begins dating the young David Whitaker. After Eliza is brutally raped by David’s cousin and becomes pregnant, she is destined for the Catholic Maternity Home for unwed mothers. Putting the baby up for adoption, Eliza is determined to further her academics with encouragement from Mrs. Perkins, a prominent government administrator. Once Shannon is released from the hospital, she finds new meaning in her life when she connects with Eliza’s daughter, Miriam. Welch steadily traces the two young women’s desire to forge their own lives, often hindered by shame, silence, guilt, and the stifling confines of societal expectations. Readers will be inspired by Shannon and Eliza’s persistence and heart."

What Readers Are Saying


Laura Bach, OnlineBookClub.org

A Thread So Fine is one of the most memorable and inspiring historical fictions I’ve ever read. It exceeded all my expectations. My first impression was that this is an adorable story about two sisters, but it’s a haunting tale with a rich story-line about a family torn apart by secrets with two incredibly powerful women at its core. The relationship between the two sisters was consuming for me. I ached at their estrangement and rooted for their reconciliation. Susan Welch portrays a family drama mirroring her own experience and fully mastering the genre.

Read the full review here.

Dr. Angela Eilers, Minneapolis, MN

Inseparable sisters, Shannon and Eliza, are warmly memorable characters. I found myself immersed in their lives as if they were my own family. Set in the 1940s, this premier novel tells the tale of each sister’s wildly different dreams for her future, yet one braces for heartache knowing dreams can’t all come true. The story of Shannon’s love for Eliza and the invisible thread she believes will bring her home weaves historical events of immense interest: life-threatening tuberculosis treatments, family abandonment over shame and the tightly guarded secrecy for victimized women, to name just a few. Welch as a first-time author shines as the story teller of this vivid depiction of post-war life in St. Paul, Minnesota and Ithaca, NY—reminding the reader of a more genteel world, although a world still fraught with social challenges and turmoil that persist today. This book is a gem!

Mary Ranahan, Seattle, WA

I read this book in 2 days…a real page turner. It’s a great work of historical fiction and a thoroughly captivating storyline, smartly written with flair.

Eliza Amon, Seattle, WA

Two sisters, a secret and two lives forever altered. This is a totally captivating novel that plunges the reader into the lives of Shannon and Eliza, two Irish-American sisters living in the post-World War II American Midwest. Their experiences and dreams take them in totally different directions and I was totally immersed in the story. I ached at their estrangement and rooted for their reconciliation. I loved the historical details as well, especially that Frances Perkins is a character. This is a totally absorbing novel that is wonderful to curl up with….

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About Susan

Susan grew up in Minnesota and Wisconsin with either her nose in a book or her toes in the water. After graduating with a Masters in International Management from AGSIM-Thunderbird, she spent fifteen years in business calling on breweries across the world, which gave her a treasured perspective both on cultural diversity and on the opportunities she might discover for learning, giving and growing. She now works for a company focused on regional agriculture, new technologies, and craft brewing. Always a writer, Susan often attempts to solve her problems in third person, creating fictionalized versions of herself and the main characters in her life—mostly in her head, but sometimes on paper. Nearly a decade ago, in the days after discovering her own adoption story for the first time, she turned to her imagination to trick her reeling mind so she could get a good night’s sleep. A THREAD SO FINE was born of those creative threads weaving into nocturnal dreams as she struggled to re-write the beginning of her own life story. Welch created Shannon and Eliza, Nell and Miriam as a way to imagine how women such as her Midwestern birth mother and adoptive mother might have overcome challenges as young Catholic women in an optimistic, but socially restrictive post-World War II culture. With the exception of FDR’s Labor Secretary, Mrs. Frances Perkins, the people in A THREAD SO FINE are all much loved fabrications layered with realities, truths and insights about her cherished mother, her brave birth mother, her beloved mother-in-law, her younger sister, and herself. When not traveling for work or pleasure, Susan spends her time either on the family houseboat in Seattle, or in a cabin in the dark and rainy, sometimes balmy woods of Lummi Island – and if she’s lucky, her husband Bruce is right there with her.