Monday, June 29, 2009
A Woman of My Word
I said I would post book reviews, and I've read hmm...maybe 3 books since I promised that. So I'll start with my most recent finish: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. After our most recent reads (hmm, let's see: a woman and her father who both contract cancer, war-torn Afghanistan, a high school shooting, and a man who loses his job and plunges his family into near-ruin), we decided to read something light-hearted.
I'm really not sure who thought this book would fit the bill. As soon as I read the first instance of Georgia's (the main character) quickly-mentioned queasiness or headache or sudden dizziness, I knew something dire was in the offing. And guess what? My premonitions were correct. Not only did Ms. Georgia have cancer, but she DIED OF IT ON PAGE 329, 11 pages before the last page of the book.
What a happy mood lifter this was. I think I've got to be a stronger voice in the book selection process. How about a little David Sedaris? Augusten Burroughs? Mark Haddon? I want to laugh so hard I cry. Not just cry.
But here's the book review you've all been waiting for:
Georgia Walker's baby-daddy deserted her soon after he found out she was pregnant and she caught him sleeping with his boss. She wanted a man who was constant; he wanted...freedom, I guess. So Georgia was left to support herself and her baby alone. In Manhattan. With a not-too-great job. She was sitting in Central Park one day with baby Dakota, a girl, knitting and crying in self-pity. That's when Anita came upon her. Fortunately, Anita was a kindly widow with an apparently endless supply of time, money, and compassion. She helped Georgia out of her self-pity and into a better financial situation: first as a knitter for hire for the rich and idle, then as the owner of a shop of knitting supplies and advice.
When the story opens eleven or so years later, Georgia's shop has become pretty successful and a group of her regular customers decides to start a knitting club on Friday nights. Young Dakota tests her burgeoning culinary skills on them, delighting the members with cupcakes, cookies, muffins and the like. A radically feminist grad student joins the club with insidious intent: to write her dissertation on outmoded women's hobbies that indicate the patriarchal nature of society--and she ends up becoming a knitter herself. Lucie ends up making a probably prize-winning documentary about the film, while also knitting like crazy for the child she has conceived with the unknowing aid of an online dater/father candidate. Anita slowly falls in love with the owner of the deli downstairs, who conveniently owns the whole building and (at the end) lets Walker and Daughter continue to operate (after Georgia's death) rent free. Peri launches her handmade handbag collection (thanks to Georgia's help) while working at the shop. KC is a sloppy knitter, but she passes the LSAT after losing her job in the publishing industry. Kat gets the courage to divorce her philandering, domineering (really rich) husband and opens an antique shop. And Georgia reconnects with her baby's daddy, her mother, AND her grandmother before dying.
It's all wrapped up so neatly, isn't it? Such a happy-tearful ending. And in a sense, I appreciate what it's saying. I like the way these women of different backgrounds and places-in-life can support each other and encourage each other. I like the way they hang out at the yarn shop, and I think I'd like to visit a place like that and feel and smell the yarns.
So what is bothering me about this? Why can't I just be happy for their happiness (and why can't I sympathize with their sadness?) I think part of what irks me about this book is the fact that most of the time, I never felt wholly immersed in the story. Whole sections were written reflectively, almost as recaps of action. Other sections felt like they were being narrated from the top of a nearly-transparent cloud: the writing created a distance from the characters that was too far to travel. But some parts drew me in: the descriptions of the shop, of Marty's apartment, of Cat's scheme to ditch her husband, of Gran's home in Scotland. But most of the time, I just slogged through the book, waiting to care.
My final advice: don't read this book unless your book club makes you. There are more and better boks out there. PS: I'm not alone. Check out the diversity of reviews on amazon.