The Knitting Circle

The Knitting Circle

4.2 62
by Ann Hood

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In the spirit of How to Make an American Quilt and The Joy Luck Club, a novel about friendship and redemption.

After the sudden loss of her only child, Stella, Mary Baxter joins a knitting circle in Providence, Rhode Island, as a way to fill the empty hours and lonely days, not knowing that it will change her life. Alice, Scarlet, Lulu,


In the spirit of How to Make an American Quilt and The Joy Luck Club, a novel about friendship and redemption.

After the sudden loss of her only child, Stella, Mary Baxter joins a knitting circle in Providence, Rhode Island, as a way to fill the empty hours and lonely days, not knowing that it will change her life. Alice, Scarlet, Lulu, Beth, Harriet, and Ellen welcome Mary into their circle despite her reluctance to open her heart to them. Each woman teaches Mary a new knitting technique, and, as they do, they reveal to her their own personal stories of loss, love, and hope. Eventually, through the hours they spend knitting and talking together, Mary is finally able to tell her own story of grief, and in so doing reclaims her love for her husband, faces the hard truths about her relationship with her mother, and finds the spark of life again. By an "engrossing storyteller," this new novel once again "works its magic" (Sue Monk Kidd).

Editorial Reviews

Carrie Brown
The 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 Weekly
While 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 Journal
Following 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 Reviews
The 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.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

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Meet the Author

Ann Hood is the author of seven novels and a short-story collection, An Ornithologist's Guide to Life. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Knitting Circle 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 62 reviews.
nhbookfan More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book. I had already read The Friday night Knitting Club, and loved it, but I think this book was better. The descriptions of the characters were so much more in depth. I loved how the main character Mary learned how to knit something new and also dealt with her greif through each member of the knitting circle telling her their own story of grief and what it was that brought them to the circle themselves.
I would reccomend this book to anyone. Even if you aren't a knitter!
JeanneOB More than 1 year ago
The charactors are so real. You feel what the characters are feeling. They remind you of someone you know. I look forward to reading more of Ann Hood's books.
Grandma-Terminator More than 1 year ago
I read an article of Ann Hood's in More Magazine and was impressed by her style so I ordered the book for my Nook. I could not put this down. As a grandmother in her 60s and a knitter, I have experienced sadness and joys of the women and men in the book. I plan to read more of her books.
LeighVW More than 1 year ago
Great read (although kindof a chick book). I loved the references to knitting, it tied the story through and through. It reminded me of a little knitting store that I used to go to and all the personalities who came to knit. Highly recommended read.
BrittPaq More than 1 year ago
An intertwining tale of humanity seen through love & loyalty, between friends & lovers, alike, as the story brings forth trauma, tragedy & triumph in people's everyday lives. Victory is no longer equated to promotions & corner offices, but rather it's about gathering enough strength to do even the simplest of tasks, like showering or doing laundry, when the lives of so many become plagued with tragedy. It reminds us to be thankful of even the most basic of things, it teaches you to never take life for granted, & that life does in fact go on. This story is invigorating & inspiring, it is a tale of survival.
AussiegirlRI More than 1 year ago
I found this book easy to read and I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. The author drew me into the story and I fell in love with the characters. I didn't want the book to end...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone in this book had a depressing story. It is understandable that main character had a sad store, but it would have been nice to have some good news along with all the bad
BethG More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I picked it up and put it down twice...once I got past the first chapter, I was hooked. As a mother I related to the main character. The story of loss is heartbreaking but her path back is healing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a knitter and a Rhode Islander I enjoyed the book but as a reader I did not. Characters were cliched and unintentionally comical in their tragic lives. The idea was a good one but the characters didn't work for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just read this book as a possible suggestion for my book club. I am still thinking about it! It was hard to put down. I believe this book would make a very interesting discussion. I can't wait to share it with others!!
tommygrrl723 More than 1 year ago
Did you like The Friday Night Knitting Club? In my opinion, this book blew it away. The characters and storyline were both so well developed, that I couldn't help but finish the book in ONE DAY! This is definitely a must read!
Fil23 More than 1 year ago
This book made me laugh and cry over and over again. Fantastic! A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book shortly after it came out I also read 'Friday Night Knitting Club.' How this book wasn't as highly featured as FNKC, I'll never know as it was a far superior book. The characters were 'real' and enjoyable. The same can't be said of all of the others that claim this genre. Spending a lot of time in bookstores, I have suggested this book to several who want to read a lighter mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a hard topic to write about, but Ann Hood did it beautifully. I started fall in love characters and what they were going through. I bought this book by mistake and I wasn't looking forward to reading it, but I am so glad I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I was reading this book the emotions bubbled up. I thought to myself if Ann Hood did not experience this then someone close to her did. It was no surprise when I learned that she did experience the loss of a child. With her experience she allowed the reader to not only read this experience but to truly feel it. I am sorry that she experienced such a tragic loss however she provided hope that there is life to be lived after someone you love dies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was such a heartwrenching read I didn't know if I could finish it. But, it was so good I had to keep reading. Based on a true life event of the author, this book will stay with me for a long time. When a book brings me to tears, I know it is good. It also made me want to learn how to knit!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book! Ann Hood really delivered. I couldn't put this book down! The emotions i got while reading the book were so real. I enthusiastically recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am now an Ann Hood fan. Everyone knows someone who is like, at least, one of these characters AND knows someone who has had some similar life-altering experience. You will relate (even if knitting is not your thing.)
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Knitting Circle is the story of death, yes, but it is also the story of life - how it can be lived, how it should be lived. At the core of our narrative is Mary, a 40-something woman who has suffered the unbearable, the loss of her only child, Stella. Stricken with bacterial meningitis Stella died at the age of five. It seems that Mary's desire to live died with her. However, Mary has a very determined mother who knows that Mary must somehow find her way back into the world. To this end, she urges Mary to join an evening knitting circle at Big Alice's Sit and Knit. Mary acquiesces. Now, why Alice is called Big Alice we do not know as she stood a mere five feet tall. She spoke with a bit of a British accent and when Mary came to her shop saying that knitting was not really her thing. Alice's reply was that many had stood on her doorstep and said the same thing. She's a wise woman who gives Mary her first instruction and introduces her to the five other women who are members of the group. As the story evolves we discover that Scarlet, Lulu, Beth, Harriet and Ellen have also suffered greatly during their lives. Initially, Mary keeps to herself, not joining in the conversation. But, as each woman shows Mary something about knitting, the woman relates her personal story. Eventually, Mary is drawn in and is able to share her painful experience. Facing her grief openly enables her to once again relate to her remaining loved ones and the world in which she lives. Knowing that The Knitting Circle is an autobiographical novel adds to the poignancy of the tale as we are once again reminded of how very much we need one another. Hillary Huber, remembered for her fine narrations of The Light in the Piazza, A Map of Glass, and others, gives a superb reading. She segues easily between the different voices of the characters. Especially impressive is the slight change in timbre that makes it quite clear when fortyish Mary is speaking or 70-year-old Alice. Clearly Huber is an accomplished actress who adds greatly to the listener's enjoyment. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great and if it does not get to the Best Seller list soon I will be disappointed. Once I started I could not stop. I liked every one of the characters and felt like I knew them well and could understand where they were coming from. I was rooting for Mary and Dylan through the whole book. Unlike the Midwife's Daughter, the characters in this book came to life. I am super impressed with Ms. Hood. God bless what she had to go through to come out with a book like this
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and the one word that comes to mind, BEAUTIFUL.
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Trixie3 More than 1 year ago
Once I began reading this wook, I couldn't put it down. The characters were lifelike and each of them had an intriguing personal story. Since I also love to knit that was the icing on the cake for me. I would highly recommend this book.