Friday, May 06, 2011

Book Review: The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood

Ann Hood lost her daughter to viral strep and learned to knit following this tragedy. The Knitting Circle is her semi-autobiographical novel that follows Mary Baxter, and to a lesser extent her husband Dylan, in the weeks and months after the loss of their five-year-old daughter Stella. Mary's idyllic life is ripped apart with Stella's death and she finds going on overwhelming. Reluctantly following her mother's advice, Mary joins a knitting circle and as she gets to know the other members, all of whom have their own story of loss, the reader realizes what is being knitted is not just wool. With each knit or purl, the members are re-knitting their lives together.

I don't know how people without a strong faith survive loss. How do you process the unexpected death of a love one from violence, disease or tragedy? How do you make sense of it all? Strikingly, on several occasions one or more of the book's characters refer to each stitch as a prayer, almost as if they look at their project as a woven rosary. Faith imagery was applied to the knitting process throughout the book and I was struck by this given the lack of discussion of loss in reference to God. None of the characters are sure of heaven, but all want to believe it exists.

The book draws you in and it will make you weep, it will make you laugh, and it may make you uncomfortable at times as you encounter abortion, casual sex and four-letter words. The supporting characters weren't as well-developed as I would have liked and the ending is a little cliche'd, but overall I liked the book.

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