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The Knitting Circle

The Knitting Circle

4.0 3
by Hillary Huber

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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

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.47(w) x 6.54(h) x 1.17(d)


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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The Knitting Circle 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a knitter and that fact in combination with my appreciation of Ann Hood's writing prompted this purchase. I even bought it in audiotape format so I could knit and "read" simultaneously. I ended up listening to the story while on a long drive en route to a destination with no knitting involved. This is the story of women and what brings them together - their back stories, their strengths, their vulnerabilities, their relationships, and the one obvious common bond, in this case, a knitting circle. It could just as easily be a book club, bridge group, or community organization. It is a marvelous presentation of the people you know, are, or want to be. Definitely worth the read - but I recommend the listen!