The turquoise eye-catching cover of "Unbroken Threads" immediately got my attention, and the premise sounded intriguing. Jessica, lawyer turned stay-at-home mom, decides to dip her toes back into the legal world by volunteering to represent an immigrant seeking asylum. She expects to be assigned a Spanish speaking client from Central America but is instead matched with Amina, a Syrian woman who has fled war-torn Aleppo and the hideous atrocities of the civil war still raging there. Jessica is initially relieved when Amina walks out of their first meeting, but when she thinks more about the encounter, she decides to pursue her client despite her reservations. As the relationship develops, the two women form a tenuous bond that slowly strengthens. Both women must come to terms with their preconceived notions and assumptions before they can honestly communicate and learn to trust each other.
I enjoyed watching this relationship change and develop, and I looked forward to seeing where both of their stories would go. While Jessica is representing Amina, she is also unpacking trunks full of her deceased grandmother’s belongings—china and knick-knacks and old photographs. I found the juxtaposition of these scenes with the divulgement of Amina’s family history in Syria particularly effective and heart wrenching. Amina was forced to come to America alone and with nothing, leaving her parents and missing husband behind. Jessica is fortunate to have strong family connections and intact cultural history. I also enjoyed reading about an attorney main character, something more often seen in mysteries and thrillers than in women’s fiction. Klepper, an attorney herself, utilizes her knowledge of the law to create a wonderfully detailed and engaging story. I always love when an author allows the reader a peek behind the curtain of their profession, something I also do in my medical fiction novel, "Bedside Manners," releasing on October 16.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Klepper about her inspirations and her writing process.
What was your inspiration for Unbroken Threads?
My inspiration was the impact of stories on how we connect with each other. Jessica explores her own family’s stories through items passed down from her grandmother, whereas Amina, who had to flee home with almost nothing, has only memories and her voice to carry her stories.
You are an attorney yourself. What is your specialty within the law and how did you decide to focus on an immigration attorney as your main character?
I’ve practiced corporate law and volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children. When I started writing the book, the refugee crisis was growing. Since an underlying theme of my novel is that we don’t--or we shouldn’t--live our lives in silos, having Jessica reach out to work with Amina was a way to explore that concept.
Did you always have chapters from Amina's perspective or did those come later?
That’s such an author question! I didn’t include Amina’s perspective when I started writing the book. The more I wrote Jessica’s story, however, the clearer it became that I couldn’t tell her story without telling Amina’s.
As an author, I would be intimidated to voice a character with such a different background from my own. How did you approach this challenge?
I had a responsibility to approach Amina’s character with humility. This meant not only research and lots of editing to do her character justice, but also looking inward to recognize my own limitations in being able to understand what a woman with Amina’s life experiences thinks and feels.