The Washington Post
“An intelligent, moving read” (Pages) and “a testament to women’s friendship and to Ann Hood’s talent” (Hilma Wolitzer).
Carrie BrownThe Knitting Circle was written after Hood's own tragic loss, the death of her young daughter, and it is not hard to imagine the ways in which writing this novel must have been both painful and therapeutic. It is a wondrously simple book about something complicated: the nearly unendurable process of enduring after a great loss. The novel, like knitting, seems to make itself up as it goes along, the threads bound and gathered into a whole. In the end, there is something where there once was nothing: a scarf, a pair of socks, solace where there once was pain. Little by little, by knit and by purl, Mary's empty hands are once again full.
The Washington Post
Publishers WeeklyWhile mourning the death of her daughter, Hood (An Ornithologist's Guide to Life) learned to knit. In her comeback novel, Mary Baxter, living in Hood's own Providence, R.I., loses her five-year-old daughter to meningitis. Mary and her husband, Dylan, struggle to preserve their marriage, but the memories are too painful, and the healing too difficult. Mary can't focus on her job as a writer for a local newspaper, and she bitterly resents her emotionally and geographically distant mother, who relocated to Mexico years earlier. Still, it's at her mother's urging that Mary joins a knitting circle and discovers that knitting soothes without distracting. The structure of the story quickly becomes obvious: each knitter has a tragedy that she'll reveal to Mary, and if there's pleasure to be had in reading a novel about grief, it's in guessing what each woman's misfortune is and in what order it will be exposed. The strength of the writing is in the painfully realistic portrayal of the stages of mourning, and though there's a lot of knitting, both actual and metaphorical, the terminology's simple enough for nonknitters to follow and doesn't distract from the quick pace of the narrative. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library JournalFollowing her first story collection, An Ornithologist's Guide to Life, Hood's latest novel is definitely gloomy, but the beautiful language and convincing characters make it a worthwhile read. After the sudden death of her five-year-old daughter, Stella, Mary Baxter is advised by her mother that learning to knit will take her mind off her grief. When she joins the local knitting circle, she learns that all of its members have a tragic story as well. As she starts knitting and develops a group of friends who understand the depths of loss, Mary's grief begins to heal, allowing her to return to work, repair her marriage, and learn a terrible secret from her mother. The novel follows a predictable strategy: we hear the story of Mary's tragedy and then that of each member of the knitting circle in turn, as Mary learns a new stitch from each person. The theme of a group of women working together to heal grief is classic, however, and Hood draws her characters sympathetically if unsparingly. Recommended for most libraries-this book will appeal to Oprah readers. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/06.]-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Lib., Lexington Park, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsThe popular Rhode Island author's eighth novel (Ruby, 1998, etc.) is another domestic melodrama about loss, grief, therapeutic bonding and communal healing. The title denotes the group of female friends hesitantly joined by Providence matron Mary Baxter, following the sudden death of her five-year-old daughter Stella. Gradually forming acquaintances (if not quite friendships) with the women she encounters at "Big Alice's" Sit and Knit, Mary sleepwalks through her days, grasping the tenuous connection that binds her to husband Dylan, edging back toward her part-time job as cultural reporter for a local weekly alternative newspaper. This somewhat static narrative pattern is punctuated by terse phone conversations with her mother Mamie, an alcoholic who has always kept Mary at a distance (and who inexplicably failed to attend her granddaughter's funeral). Then we hear the knitters' personal stories in a sort of Oprah-moderated Decameron. Red-haired beauty Scarlet became involved with a married Parisian, but their affair fell victim to her carelessness. Tough-talking "glass artist" Lulu survived a violent rape. Ellen has a teenaged daughter with a failing heart-and, furthermore, left the close Appalachian community where she grew up to abscond with the charming Irishman who proved unworthy of her love. Embittered Harriet lost loved ones on 9/11, "perfect" supermom Beth suffers from cancer. And so on, through the bad days when Dylan leaves depressive Mary for another woman, until a restorative Christmas season filled with reconciliations, good cheer, completed knitting projects and all that good stuff. The impulse behind this novel is respectable (an author's note discloses that it's based onHood's own very similar experience of loss). But its overload of cliches, redundancy and exceedingly predictable sentimentality fails its good intentions. Readers can only knit their brows in consternation, and hope for a better book next time. Agent: Gail Hochman/Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents Inc.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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