by Madeline Nathaus
With mandated lockdowns and self-quarantines becoming the norm again across the world due to COVID-19, it’s times like these we all need a reminder that we are never truly alone.
One reminder comes in the form of a children’s book, The Invisible String.
A bestseller and one of Amazon’s top books dealing with grief, with millions of copies sold, is by none other than Ventura local Patrice Karst, 62.
“The invisible string is real,” Karst said. “Yes, I wrote it as a children’s book because I knew that was the way to get the message out there as simply as I could. We are connected by an invisible string to everyone we love and they can feel it, and it’s real, and it lasts forever. There’s something about that simple concept that’s gone beyond me.”
Karst said she came up with the idea for the book when her son, then in preschool, would have crying fits when she dropped him off. One day, she calmed his separation anxiety by telling him that if he ever missed her, he could pull on the “invisible string” that connected them and know that she was on the other end. After that day, he no longer dealt with the fear of being apart from her.
Inspired by that idea, The Invisible String was published in 2000 by the small publisher De Vorss & Company, with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. As the popularity steadily grew over the years, Karst was picked up by Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers in 2017 and released a 2018 version with new illustrations and a legit marketing campaign behind it.
“If you have a book, if you have a story, if you have something you’re compelled and passionate to tell, then for God’s sake, don’t just keep thinking about it — write it,” Karst said. “Write your story.”
Over the past 20 years, the book became a word-of-mouth phenomenon and has been used by therapists, teachers, social workers, rehabilitation centers, the military, prisons, churches and many other groups to help console children and adults alike on coping with loss through the universal connection of love.
“I had seen the book on Amazon in passing, but didn’t know much about it,” Karst’s publisher Andrea Spooner said via email. “After I read it once, I knew there was something special here and understood why it was already resonating with so many people, and I was excited that my team was on board with the idea of helping to bring the story to many more people in the U.S. and around the world.”
While the marketing campaign, the timing of the Thomas Fire in 2017 and later the pandemic blew the popularity of the book out of the water, as people needed something to help them feel connected, Karst attributes one particular line in the book to its massive success and ability to help people cope with grief.
The line references one of the children asking their mother if the string can even reach up to a loved one who has passed. Karst’s original publisher had urged her to take it out due to it bringing up death in a children’s book.
“It was very important to me when I wrote the book that I could express to children just how far the string could reach, that there were no limits,” Karst said. “And I really wanted children to know that the string could go to loved ones that have passed away. Children deal with death. Most people say it’s a taboo subject, but I think it’s super important that that conversation about death starts early.”
The success of The Invisible String has allowed Karst to publish three other books with Little, Brown, including The Invisible Web and The Invisible Leash, with more books on the way. There’s also a workbook, written in collaboration with art therapist Dana Wyss, PhD, used to help build self-esteem and healthy relationships. She even discussed the possibility of a film or television adaptation. The book was featured in Publisher’s Weekly in 2018 and on The View in the summer of 2021, after co-host Sara Heines’ child was given the book by their teacher.
During these isolating times, Karst is particularly excited about her other book, The Invisible Web, which discusses the global connection of love through all the invisible strings we share with everyone, creating an invisible web. As stated in the book, “The web has no borders.”
“The other titles in the series are slowly and steadily finding their following and we hope more and more people will share in the benefits these books offer by identifying, cherishing and strengthening emotional bonds with everyone in our lives and around the world,” Spooner said. “If only all of our children could experience these stories from the earliest of their days, perhaps the world could become a better place.”
The Invisible String and other books by Patrice Karst are available from several retailers, as well as Little, Brown and Company at www.lbyr.com.
Patrice Karst responds personally to every letter she receives and encourages people to correspond with her through her website at www.patricekarst.com.