Why: While browsing the bargain table at Barnes and Noble, the cover of this novel caught my eye. Then, as a knitter myself, the simple, straightforward title drew me in. Finally, the synopsis on the back seemed as if it was written just for me from the names of the characters, to their personalities, to the concept of finding friendship and healing.
Words had always been enough in the past; words, she had frequently said to her students, could do anything, take you anywhere. … But the fact was that words had their limitations. There were some things in life, feelings, experiences, for which there were no names.
The Story: Sandra has recently lost her husband to cancer and has reduced her life to a very lonely existence. When an unexpected incident connects her to two strangers on the street, she is forced to interact with people and allow herself to be engaged in someone else’s life again. As her relationship with one of these strangers, Martha, grows, Sandra concocts an idea that will pair her very rigid and academic mindset with Martha’s creative thought process and talent for knitting. As the two navigate the treacherous waters of new friendship and working together, each woman is forced to address deep rooted personal struggles.
Martha could feel the flush of anxiety rising from deep down in her belly, rising like a flood to carry her mind away from its moorings into a swirling, panicking fright, bumpy with recollections of getting things wrong. Misjudgment, misplaced trust, not being able to do what was needed, being young and clumsy and stupid – so stupid not to see it coming, not to get it right the first time and avert disaster.
Opinion: I am very torn on this book. The writing is engaging and complex without being heavy. It is a good story, and the character development is done in a beautiful way that weaves the reader into the all too relatable personas. As a knitter, the knitting references are enjoyable and well-placed, without being as overbearing as the title suggests they could be. There is just something irksome about the book though, and I think it’s probably because I am more like Sandra with her academic rigidity and desire for straightforward answers.
Halfway through the novel, I was still wondering what the character Cliff was meant to do for the plot. Where did he fit in? It also felt like there were opportunities for explanations and rationale of past events that weren’t quite fulfilled. My guess is that these were intentional, however, and created to allow the reader to think and read into deeper concepts as opposed to being spoon fed a plot. I respect this, and should I choose to read this again, I believe I would appreciate this aspect more as I wouldn’t be reading to find out what happens next.
Sandra took a deep breath, curtsied her acceptance, and stepped into the pattern of the dance.
Recommendation: This is not a book about knitting. It is a book about relationships, connections, personal awareness and growth. That may not sound remotely interesting, but if you’re looking for a quick read that falls in between a fluffy “read on the beach” kind of book and a more thought-provoking piece of literature, this is a great choice. It hits on the age of problem of women hiding emotions and bottling them up until they reach their breaking point. It also prompts some introspection into how we treat others, but non-threateningly through the guise of fiction.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!) The nice surprise with this book was that it has some discussion questions already provided at the end! I’ve included a couple of my favorites from those questions (indicated with an *) in addition to a few of my own.
- Do you relate to Sandra? If not, do you know a “Sandra”? How do you interact with “Sandras”?
- This novel relates knitting to being a community. Do you agree with this? What are you involved in that has a similar sense of community?
- What is in Martha’s luggage? What bags do you carry with you?
- *What does the process of making [gifts] mean to [Martha]? What do the gifts themselves represent? What special meaning does the white dress carry?
- *What might [the hospital cleaner’s] interventions represent?
- Author Anne Bartlett is Australian, and the story is set in Australia. How do you think the plot might have changed if it were set in New York City or even small town America?