Knit and Bitch

I picked up The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood even though my affair with knitting ended with a crooked scarf and a bag of unused yarn from Michael’s. A year ago, I read her memoir Comfort about tragically losing her 5 year old daughter and getting through the grief. It was a powerful read and I wanted to discover more of her work.

The Knitting Circle is her novel that is richly steeped in her personal life. The protagonist, Mary, recently lost her daughter, Stella, to bacterial meningitis. As Mary goes through shock, anger and a complete disconnection from the world, she reluctantly attends a knitting class. As time goes on, she starts to find knitting therapeutic, a way to get through the lonely hours she once had filled caring for her daughter.

While she attends the knitting group, she meets other ladies from a variety of backgrounds. Each has her own life story, which takes up a chapter in the book. It reminded me of that movie How to Make an American Quilt or as I like to call it–Everyone Cheats on Their Spouse. Like many of the book reviews, I got a little tired of the predictable organization of the novel, where every woman in the knitting circle had a chance to share her personal tragic story. It worked out too conveniently that every character in this novel had a seriously traumatic story to tell.

What saves the novel is the all-too-real grief that Mary suffers from losing her daughter, her tenuous relationship with her husband and the anger she feels that people in the world still have the nerve to be happy. The details of feeling paralyzed in a grocery store at seeing her daughter’s favorite fruit in season, or the fear of having to attend social events and act interested, were well written. The story line about Mary’s troubled marriage after losing their only child takes an interesting turn and I find it illuminating to consider how a family keeps together (and falls apart) after the death of a loved one. I would have preferred more about that and less of the ladies’ stories that were just too convenient. It almost seemed like every woman’s story of loss topped the other’s. I believe her memoir Comfort is a better read, but if you are a knitting aficionado, you might enjoy this novel.

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