Their weekly Sunday knitting circle is the only thing holding them together as Kathleen is cut off financially by her family and forced to enter 'the real world' for the very first time at the age of twenty-seven, Sari finds herself falling for the man who made her life a living hell in high school but who now desperately needs her help, and Lucy finds herself torn between emotion and reason when her lab and her boyfriend are assailed by an animal-rights group.
At their club meetings, they discuss the really important questions: how bad is it, really, to marry for money if you like the guy a lot anyway? Can you ever forgive someone for something truly atrocious that they've done? Is it better to be unhappily coupled than happily alone? And the little ones: Can you wear a bra with a hand-knit tube top? Is it ever acceptable to knit something for a boyfriend? And why do your stitches become lopsided after your second martini?
In Claire LaZebnik's hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking novel, Sari, Lucy, and Kathleen's lives intersect, overlap, unravel, and come back together-the result is an utterly satisfying read.
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About the Author
Claire LaZebnik is a published novelist and non-fiction writer. She lives with her husband and four children in Pacific Palisades, California.
Read an Excerpt
Knitting Under the InfluenceA Novel
By Claire LaZebnik
5 SPOTCopyright © 2006 Claire LaZebnik
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was ten o'clock on Sunday morning and the regular time for the girls to meet for their knitting circle, but when Kathleen opened the door to greet the others, she was still wearing her pajama bottoms and a stained "The Best Girls Are from Los Angeles" T-shirt. Her long brown hair was escaping in fly-away strands from her ponytail elastic, and around her eyes were traces of mascara and eyeshadow that clearly hadn't been completely washed off the night before.
Sari said, "You didn't have to dress up just for us." "Or clean up," Lucy said. The huge foyer was strewn with glasses, bottles, crumpled napkins, and small plastic plates with food still on them.
"Give me a break," Kathleen said. "The party went late and I only just got up. Come to the kitchen so I can make some coffee."
They followed her toward the back of the house, their knitting bags slung over their shoulders. Sari caught a glimpse of the living room as they went by. It was easily four times the size of her entire apartment, but today it was as trashed as the rest of the house. She said, "I wouldn't want to be the one to have to get the stains out of the carpet."
"Cleaning help comes tomorrow," Kathleen said.
"You could at least pick up the trash," Lucy saidwith a backward look of disgust at a Coke can that was lying on an antique side table in a sticky brown puddle.
"Cleaning help comes tomorrow," Kathleen said again, irritably this time. They entered the kitchen. "You guys bring something to eat?"
"Bagels. Sorry, I know it's boring, but it was on the way." Sari dropped the bag of fresh bagels onto the island, and then tossed her knitting bag and purse next to it. She hoisted herself onto one of the high leather-upholstered stools. When she sat, her feet dangled inches above the floor. "Why is the kitchen so much cleaner than the rest of the house?"
"Caterers. They cleaned up in here before they left. You both want coffee?"
"Of course we want coffee," Sari said. "You had caterers?" Lucy mounted the stool next to Sari. "Sounds fancy. What was the occasion?" "The twins' twenty-fifth birthday."
"Wait a second," Lucy said. "That doesn't make any sense. If it was their birthday, wouldn't it be your birthday, too?"
"You'd think," Kathleen said. She was one of triplets. The other two were identical twins, which had made her, from birth, the odd man out.
"So what you're saying is, you had a birthday party and didn't invite us," Sari said. "Should we be hurt?"
Kathleen was staring at the coffeemaker like she'd never seen it before. "God, my brain's not functioning," she said. "I think I'm still drunk from last night. I didn't even go to bed until after three. Don't be an idiot, Sari. You and I went out to celebrate my birthday two months ago. Don't you remember?"
"Oh, right," Sari said. "We went to Bombay Café." "Why wasn't I invited?" Lucy said.
"You were. You were working late and couldn't come." Sari turned back to Kathleen, who was filling up the coffee carafe with water at the sink. "But you turned twenty-seven." "I know."
"So why were the twins celebrating their twenty-fifth birthday last night if they turned twenty-seven two months ago?"
"Good question," Kathleen said. She carried the carafe back to the coffeemaker. She had overfilled it, and the water was trickling out, leaving a trail of drips on the wood floor behind her. "The party was a publicity event for their new movie. The twenty-five part is just a lie." Kathleen's sisters had once had a successful sitcom on TV where they played identical twin sisters who confused a lot of people by exchanging places. It ran for six years. When it ended, they started making movies, in each of which they played identical twin sisters who confused a lot of people by exchanging places.
"They always seem younger than you," Lucy said. "Are you sure you're the same age?"
"Yep," Kathleen said. "We popped out all together. In fact, I was the last one out, which makes me the youngest. People just think I'm older because I'm so much taller. Plus I went to school while they were stuck on some set or another being quote unquote tutored so they have the intellect of ten-year-olds."
"Was it a good party?" Sari asked, looking around. "It looks like it was a good party. The house is trashed."
"I honestly don't remember much about it. There was a cute bartender who was extremely talented. He made the best pomegranate margarita ..." Kathleen poured the water into the coffeemaker. "I talked to him, helped him out by tasting some new variations-" She stuck the carafe in its place and turned to look at them. "I have a bad feeling, though-" "About what?"
"I don't know. Like I did something last night I shouldn't have."
"Maybe you slept with the bartender," Lucy said. She tore a bagel in half, then carefully dug out the insides with her long, slender fingers. She piled the discarded bread in a neat pyramid on the counter in front of her.
Kathleen shook her head. "No, that would have been a good thing. And it's more that feeling you get when someone's mad at you."
"Maybe the bartender had a girlfriend." "Will you forget about the bartender?" She pushed the start button on the coffeemaker. "It'll be ready in a few minutes. You guys want to stay in here or move to the family room?"
"Those are our only choices?" Sari said. "Doesn't this house have at least fifty other rooms?"
"Oh, don't exaggerate," Lucy said. "It's a simple little fifteen-thousand-square-foot cottage. Don't make it sound like a mansion." She took a small bite of her bagel shell, then put it down on top of the pile of discards and dusted off her fingers with the finality of someone who has had all the breakfast she intends to have.
"I should get dressed," Kathleen said with another yawn. "But it seems like so much work."
"You poor thing," Lucy said. "You slave over a hot drink all night-"
"A hot bartender," Sari said. "She slaved over a hot bartender all night. The drinks were cold. All fifteen of them."
"I think there may have been fifteen," Kathleen said. She pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes and said wearily, "I've got to cut back."
"What I don't get is how you stay so thin," Lucy said. She reached down to the floor for her knitting bag and pulled out a ball of yarn, two knitting needles, and an attached length of sparkling blue scarf. "If I drank as much as you, I'd be the size of this house. Alcohol's fattening."
Sari said, "Uh, Kathleen? I usually take coffee in my coffee." Kathleen turned to look. Steaming brownish hot water was dripping into the carafe. "Shit," she said. "I forgot to put in the grounds."
Lucy hooted. "Brilliant." "I told you I was still drunk from last night." She punched the coffeemaker off.
A young woman walked into the room. They all turned. "Hi," she said. She had an appealingly childlike round face, long, wavy auburn hair, and a narrow body that seemed too small for the size of her head. "Sorry if I'm interrupting."
"Not at all," Sari said. "Hi." "It's your house," Lucy added.
"Morning," Kathleen said. The other girl didn't even acknowledge her but, with a nod at the other two, walked over to the refrigerator, opened it, took out a bottle of Voss water, then, with another nod and a "Later," left the kitchen.
There was a moment of silence. Kathleen carried the carafe of dirty-looking water over to the sink and dumped it, then refilled it with clean tap water.
"Okay," Lucy said. "Which one was that?" "I don't know," Kathleen said. "I can't tell them apart." "Yes, you can," Sari said.
Kathleen reached into a cabinet above the coffeemaker and got out a canister of coffee. "Fine. It was Christa. Does it really matter to you?"
"She always that friendly in the morning?" Lucy said. Kathleen shrugged as she shook some coffee grounds directly into the filter. "I think maybe she's mad at me about last night."
"Why?" Sari said. "I told you-I can't remember." Lucy held her knitting up and studied it critically. "It's beautiful, Lucy," Sari said. She reached out and pulled the end of the scarf toward her. "This yarn is incredible. I love the way it glitters."
"It's got these metallic pieces woven in ... It's cool, isn't it?" "Have you ever made anything besides a scarf?" Kathleen leaned back against the counter where the coffee was finally successfully brewing. "I mean, we've been doing this for years and all I've ever seen you make is scarves."
"I like scarves," Lucy said. "I've never seen you wear one. Unless you're using them as part of some kinky sex bondage game ..."
"Scarves are fun to knit," Lucy said. She picked up her needles and started clicking away with them. "You just go on row after row, and when it's long enough, you're done."
"How about some plates here?" Sari said to Kathleen. The phone started ringing. Kathleen reached up to open a cabinet.
"Don't you need to get that?" Sari said. "It's not for me-I only use my cell." The phone stopped ringing. Kathleen put a stack of plates on the counter, then reached into the bag and took out a handful of bagels. She was piling them high on a plate when one slipped off and fell on the floor. She picked up the bagel and was about to drop it back with the others when Lucy thrust a hand in the way.
"For God's sake, throw it out. It's got hairs on it." "Picky, picky, picky." Kathleen tossed it into the sink. Sari pulled a container of cream cheese out of the bagel bag and opened it. "Get a knife, Kath, will you?" "A clean one," Lucy said.
"And cups for juice," Sari said. "And mugs for coffee." "You guys are a lot of work," Kathleen said. "When you come to my place, everything's already set up," Lucy said. "Sari's, too."
"I'm sorry I'm not Martha Stewart," Kathleen said. "Somewhere around the seventeenth drink last night, I guess I forgot to clean the good china for you." "Party girl," Sari said fondly. Kathleen grinned at her. "Working on it." "Mugs?" Lucy said.
As Kathleen was reaching up to get them, her mother entered the room, flanked on each side by a girl identical to the one who had entered the room earlier. The two redheads made perfect bookends to their blond mother as they all stopped in the doorway. Sari and Lucy swiveled to greet them.
"Hello, Sari, darling," said Kathleen's mother, who, with her regular features and small frame, looked more like the twins' sister than their sister did, since Kathleen was tall and dark-haired. "Hello, Lucy. Kathleen, could we please have a word with you?"
"Why?" Kathleen said, turning around. "What is it? Is it about last night? What'd I do?" She seemed more curious than concerned.
"You know what you did," one of the twins said. It was Kelly, but only her blood relatives could tell for sure-Sari and Lucy had no idea which twin was which.
"Yeah," Christa said. "You know." "Honestly," Kathleen said. "I don't. Last night is kind of a blur."
Christa stepped forward, ruining their symmetry. "Oh, please.
Like you don't remember talking to that Hollywood Reporter reporter?"
"Reporter reporter?" Lucy repeated under her breath to Sari. "Not really," Kathleen said. "I had a lot to drink-" "Tell us about it," Kelly said with a roll of the eyes. "You were so wrecked-"
"Like you weren't," Christa said to her. "You were all over Munchie's nephew."
"He was all over me. Jealous much?" "The point is," said their mother. "The point is, Kathleen, that you said some unfortunate things last night-" "And now we're screwed because of it," Kelly said.
"Well, we hope not," their mother said. "Junie's trying to convince the guy it's worth killing the story to have her owe him a favor-but if he decides to go to print, well, then ..." "We're screwed," Kelly said, and this time her mother nodded.
"Why?" Kathleen said. "What'd I say that was so bad?" "What didn't you say?" Christa asked. "I mean, you started with our-"
"You let leak some confidential family information," her mother said, cutting her off with a meaningful glance in Lucy and Sari's direction.
Kathleen was still trying to figure it out. "What? You mean about their age?"
"That. And some other things I'd rather we not discuss at the moment."
"Shit, Mom, I didn't say anything that isn't common knowledge. What's the big deal?"
"The big deal is that you've betrayed your sisters' trust," her mother said. "Your sisters who house you and feed you and employ you ... The least you could do is respect their privacy."
"I was drunk," Kathleen said. "It wasn't on purpose." "Then you shouldn't drink," Kelly said.
"Neither should you," Christa said to her. "You were as bad as she was."
"I didn't say anything stupid." "No, but you did a lot of stupid things. Your tongue was so deep in his mouth-"
"I think," said their mother, "that Kathleen owes you both an apology."
Kathleen shrugged. "Sorry," she said. "I was drunk. Sometimes I do stupid things when I'm drunk."
"And sometimes even when she's not," Lucy whispered to Sari, who hushed her.
"Oh, come on," Christa said. "At least try to sound like you mean it."
"She's right," their mother said. "Kathleen, your sisters have been nothing but good to you and you don't seem to appreciate it. Everything you have you have because of them, but they get nothing from you in return-"
"What are you talking about? I've been working for them since college."
"Yes, you have," said her mother. "And that steady income you get is something else you owe them." "If you don't like the way I do my job-" Kelly snorted. "Come on, Kathleen. All you do is make a couple of phone calls now and then."
"No, really," Kathleen said, standing up straight and squaring her shoulders. "If you guys don't want me around, just say so. I mean, I thought I was doing you all a favor by helping out with the company and keeping an eye on things here, but if you think the favors are all on your side ..." She looked from one member of her family to another. No one said anything. "Fine," she said then. "Fine. I don't have to stay here. And I won't. I have other options."
"No, you don't," said Christa, rolling her eyes. "Yes, I do." "No, you don't."
"Yes, she does," said Sari, swiveling the bar stool around to face Christa directly. "I've been begging her for ages to come stay with me and help me out with the rent." She rotated back around. "What do you say, Kathleen? You ready to move in with me?" "Are you kidding? Just give me ten minutes to pack my bags." Kathleen came around the island.
"Don't be silly," her mother said. "Come on, Kathleen, if you're doing this to prove something, it's not worth it. You know we don't actually want you to leave."
"Yeah," said Kelly. "You're making too big a deal out of this." "We don't want you to move out," Christa said. "We just want you to not get trashed and say stupid things anymore." "Live free or die," Kathleen said, brushing past her. "That's my motto."
"I thought that was New Hampshire's motto," Lucy whispered to Sari.
"It is," Sari whispered back. "But I'll bet you anything they don't know that."
Excerpted from Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnik Copyright © 2006 by Claire LaZebnik. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Her fairly successful actress twin sisters allow Kathleen Winters to live off of them until she opened her mouth to a reporter while drinking. Angry at her, they toss her out for revealing family secrets that hurt their careers. --- Animal rights activists assault research scientist Lucy Cameron for her lab¿s practices. The protests lead to Lucy pondering whether she is doing the right thing at work and with her sanctimonious boyfriend. --- Sari Hill works at an autism clinic. She has doubts about helping a particular patient when the man who bullied her brother in high school arrives with autistic son. --- These three friends discuss right from wrong as each knits a special item of clothing knowing deep in their respective souls that life is the SAME AS IT NEVER WAS. --- This deep character study uses knitting as a powerful metaphor on life with the end products representing the personalities of the trio as well as the path one step (stitch) at a time to get there. The key to this strong tale is that the threesome seems genuine whether they knit, indulge in sex or cuddle a kitten as they discuss their relationships, their troubles, and their aspirations. KUI is the complete package thanks to the complex female membership and a story line that enables readers to hear the clicking of the needles. --- Harriet Klausner
I love this book. I love how the author can make you connect to three different heroines all at the same time. I was so anxious to get to the next part of the book that I stayed up all night reading it through in one sitting...then I read it again just to make sure that I didn't miss something. I LOVED IT!
I bought this book thinking it would be a really easy, fun read. Yes, it was easy, but it was so predictable that it was completely boring and lost my interest quickly. I LOVE a great "girlfriends" book, but this was over the top and WAY too long for the story it told. I ended up skimming about the last 75 pages that didn't need to be there. I would not recommend this book.
Characters were very flat and predictable. Not impressed.
I loved this book about some misfit girls and their crazy shenanigans... I laughed and cried, and I read it over and over.
This starts off really slowly and I nearly gave up on it, but since I'd already purchased it, I gave it a shot. The story jumps back and forth between the three main characters, following the ups and downs in their various relationships. I wouldn't really suggest to anyone that they buy this book, but if you already have it, stick with it. It's not a complete waste of time.
It took a while to get into the story. It flips between the perspective of each of the main characters, which at first was a bit of a drag and a little hard to follow. About a third of the way into it, I was hooked. I finished the rest of the book that same day.
I must admit I was expecting a humorous, murder mystery so I eagerly waited for cadavers. When that didn't happen, I had to settle for a bunch of predictable romances, superficial characters and dull politics. The only redeeming feature is the reflection on autism, the way it was stigmatized in the past, it stresses families and it creates a whole new dynamic with the rest of society. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend it for anything more than a quick read on the bus.
This book was very enjoyable. My only complaint is that there could have been more knitting instruction, and it wasn't hard to figure out where the relationships were going. But still ,this is part of the reason I enjoyed it. This is my kind of book that takes me to other worlds and relaxes me from the days worries. The characters were well written and the book moved along.
I won't say that I thought this was a great book, because I'd be lying. But I thought it was ok.I really liked the book until the end. And I'm all for neat tie-ups and everyone goes away happy but I just didn't see all the outcomes in this book as believable. I know it's fiction but the characters should still be believable, right? The writing style was good and it was easy to follow the dialogue. The character development was great! I think that all the characters were fairly well-rounded and their personalities were fine, until the end. The end could have been so much better and still given the same outcome. I felt like you get to the end of the book and the author needed to get the last bit in but only had so many pages to do it, so she cut it so it would fit.Bad ending or not I think it was an ok book. I'm going to find something else of her's to read as I really did like her writing style. It was very easy to follow.
Being a lifelong knitter the title and cover (with it's yarn ball and needles atop a martini glass) reached out and grabbed me. I had to read it. And it was a very enjoyable story. First you meet Kathleen, one of triplets, but the odd one out as her sisters are identical twins. Kathleen is floundering around trying to find her place in life by drifting along and not doing much of anything. Sari is a therapist working with autistic children (her brother had autism. She finds herself the therapist for the son of one of her brother's tormentors in high school. And finally, Lucy, a brilliant scientist dating the man of her dreams (or is he?). These three meet over bagels or drinks to knit their scarves and try to figure out their lives. At times I wanted to pick up my own needles and say "help me figure this out".
Three friends in Los Angeles deal with family and relationship problems at their weekly knitting circle meetings. This is light hearted Chick Lit that will leave you feeling good and maybe wanting to knit a little something.
Pretty good chick lit in that you have characters you just want to shake and say "wake up"! Well, at least that's how I read a lot of chick lit. The knitting angle in this was fun. But I was fascinated by the parts about autism, something I previously had not read much about. I do believe I've read that the author has an autistic child.
Just finished it last night at 1am. It was an easy and enjoyable read. It took awhile to get used to the sparse writing style--no words wasted on lengthy descriptions of people or places--and at first the knitting references seemed forced, but once I was pulled into the story, that feeling went away. I liked the characters, I enjoyed their stories, and I'd definitely recommend the book to others.
I adored this book! It was so much fun that even though I knew right away how it was going to turn out I still really enjoyed the journey. The main characters were great and interesting, and I loved the knitting twist. Even the cover picture is cute, and there are some yummy-sounding drink recipes at the end.
I could get past the second chapter. The character kathleen was so obnoxious that i couldn't maintain enough interest to make it any further into the book.
You would think that a book with 'knitting' in the title would have more knitting in the story line. Sadly, there was not a lot of knitting in this book, almost as if it were an afterthought during editing in hopes to draw in more potential readers. That being said, if you are looking for a light, fun, romantic chick book, then this would be a suitable choice.
This book has been on my to be read list for a while and I can't understand why, because Claire LaZebnik has never failed to deliver anything less than an amazing book. I love how cute the title of the book is. It is apt and applies to the women in the story, Kathleen, Sari, and Lucy are best friends and knitting buddies. Each has a different personality and traits, but are always there for each other. It's a great story of camaraderie, knitting, and finding love along with what you are truly looking for. You definitely will not regret picking this one up.