Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Casting with a Fragile Thread

Casting with a Fragile Thread

A Story of Sisters and Africa

Wendy Kann




Trade Paperback

One Sunday morning in her suburban home in Connecticut, Wendy Kann received a phone call: her youngest sister, Lauren, had been killed on a lonely road in southern Africa. With that news, Kann is summoned back to the territory of her youth in what is now Zimbabwe. The girls' privileged colonial childhood, a rural life of mansions and servants, is devastated by their father's premature death, their mother's insanity, and the onset of civil war. Kann soon leaves Africa, marries an American, and has finally settled into the dry sophistication of life in the States when her sister's death calls her back.

With honesty and compassion, Kann pieces together her sister's life, explores the heartbreak of loss and the struggle to belong, and finally discovers a new, more complicated meaning of home.


Lauren, my youngest sister, was killed in a car accident on a straight and lonely road in Zambia in 1999. By then I was so comfortable in my American life, so warm in its assumptions, that her death felt...


Praise for Casting with a Fragile Thread

“One of the most beautifully written, harrowing, compassionate nonfiction books I've read in years. Written with fierce love and a kind of sun-forged courage, it's heartbreaking, almost unbearably real, and incredibly hopeful.” —Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

“[Wendy Kann] writes from the perspective of a daughter and a mother, with a twinge of regret but not the gnawing homesickness of other writers cursed and fortunate enough to have been raised on that remarkable continent. The book's refreshingly crisp, uncloying, practical tone makes you feel empathy for a woman who lost her sister in a faraway land.” —Los Angeles Times

“Kann's debut is brave, brutally honest, and highly readable. Her prose is poignant and elegant; it especially comes alive when she is describing the land and the people of Africa.” —Library Journal

“This is more than a touching story of personal tragedy. Wendy Kann paints an unapologetic and thoughtful view of a different kind of minority. She is first a settler: a white Zimbabwean, brought up in a privileged but dysfunctional cocoon of expats, alcoholics, and hardbitten farmers. She is later an improbable African immigrant: a Western-looking woman bewildered and alone on the streets of New York. Her candid treatment of race is refreshingly free of political correctness, her tales of bridging cultures are insightful and thought-provoking, and her family's searing history is penned with honesty. Best of all, her lovely words reflect an introspection and grace that are sometimes borne out of so much hardship.” —Sarah Erdman, author of Nine Hills To Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village

“I was very affected by this accomplished memoir. Wendy Kann, with often heart-breaking and evocative detail, has brought back a small gem from her colonial experience of Africa.” —Carolyn Slaughter, author of A Black Englishman and Before The Knife: Memories of an African Childhood

“Wendy Kann's courageous memoir is marked by loss--of a mother and a father, of a country, of a sister. Her work is remarkably free of sentimentality. Instead she writes eloquently about her and her sisters increasingly desperate struggle for love and sense of belonging in a family disintegrating at the same time that a brutal civil war breaks out in Rhodesia. She vividly captures the fear and denial and disbelief of her fellow white countrymen in the years preceding independence. Though painful at times, her journey back to Zimbabwe and her reclaiming of her childhood years in Africa is a gripping read.” —Lisa Fugard, author of Skinner's Drift

“Kann writes brilliantly about sisters: their frictions, their intimacies, and, above all, their binding loyalty, even when time has moved them continents apart. Her memoir takes us on an emotional helter-skelter, from the entitlement and raw racism of her African childhood, through troughs of poverty and abandonment, to an ascendant understanding of what means to live and love. Reads like a sequel to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Doris Lessing's memoirs.” —Rob Nixon, Rachel Carson Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin and author of Dreambirds

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Wendy Kann

Wendy Kann lives in Connecticut with her husband and children. Casting with a Fragile Thread is her first book.

Wendy Kann

Wendy Kann

From the Publisher


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