Let me begin by saying: I AM OUTRAGED.
And let me second that by saying some spoilers may abound in this review, because I’m having a hard time controlling my ire!
So here we have Kate Jacobs’ The Friday Night Knitting Club, the story of self-empowered and bold Georgia Walker, a woman who owns and operates a yarn shop in New York City. With her 12-year-old daughter Dakota, Walker & Daughter has grown from a small upstart to a successful business — and great center of a knitting community. Friends Anita and Peri help Georgia with the business; many other friends come in and out as members of the Friday Night Knitting Club, an impromptu gathering which gained momentum until ladies came to rely upon the club as a great place to relax and forget about the stresses of the week.
As the story progresses, we’re introduced to a myriad of new characters: K.C., a publishing maven whose life — and career — is at a crossroads; Darwin, a graduate student who comes to the club initially to question the “traditional” aspect of the craft which may or may not bind women to the patriarchy; Lucie, a television producer wondering if, at 42, she’s missed her chance to become a mother; Anita, a spritely widow still finding her place in the world after the death of her beloved husband; Cat, the wife of a philandering dingbat who has plenty of money — but still can’t fill up that gaping hole inside her.
And then we have James — the handsome, successful architect who wooed Georgia in her 20s only to break her heart. And bring her Dakota, their daughter . . . the daughter James couldn’t be bothered to help beyond the customary support payments he deposited in a bank account for Georgia. So when he reappears on the scene and throws off the balance in Georgia’s efficient life, the results are catastrophic.
So. There’s the synopsis . . . nice and easy, leaving out any major spoilers. Let me start out by saying what I liked about the novel — which was basically everything up until the last sixty pages. The sense of place in the novel was impeccable — I was absolutely in love with Georgia’s shop, imagining the coziness with all those skeins of yarn sitting out and ready to be stitched into a purse or a sweater. I loved the apartment she shared with Dakota right above the shop, and I loved the closeness of their relationship.
The members of the knitting club were well-drawn — the characterization was excellent. Though I usually shy away from books with way too many central characters (see: The Reading Group), I really felt like I got to know each individual woman’s troubles, hopes and goals. Each person was clearly defined in my mind, and I really sympathized with them as they made their way through all sorts of twists and turns . . . Anita falling in love again, Peri attempting to start up her business, Cat wanting to leave Adam. All of the dialogue was realistic, and I loved the interplay between each member of the group: K.C.’s brashness; Lucie’s authoritative lead on projects.
And, of course, I ate up the tension between Georgia and James like cookie dough ice cream. It was obvious from the second he reemerged on the scene that he was a whole lot more than just an old flame . . . or her daughter’s father. He is those things, of course, but he’s also Georgia’s first — and only — love. I knew it would only be a matter of time they owned up to their feelings, provided they could release enough of the past’s hurt to move forward. Beautiful.
What I didn’t like?
Um, the ending. Any of it.
Up until I reached those final chapters, I was cruising right along with the club, enjoying the ride toward redemption and reconciliation for everyone. Moving on. Letting go. I lapped up the sage advice of Gran, Georgia’s Scottish grandmother, and thought a lot about what it means to be a “family.” Dakota and Georgia look nothing like each other — Dakota being the daughter of a white woman (Georgia) and a black man (James). Georgia has wild curls and porcelain skin, and feels close to her family roots in Scotland. James, the father Dakota never knew, is from Baltimore . . . and hopes to expose her to the African-American side of her family tree. And there’s Dakota, right in the middle. Thinking. I thought with her.
The novel was very introspective, emotional and well-written. Jacobs writes deftly, showing us just enough of each characters’ sides — the good, the bad, the small — for us to relate to them completely. And, though the novel is written in third person, we feel like we spend the most amount of time with shopkeeper Georgia. We really root for her. We see where she’s been and get a glimpse of where she’s going — this grand, complete life.
And then everything is derailed.
I won’t ruin it for you, I promise. I’ll keep my angry tirades to myself. Suffice it to say you’ll need some tissues and maybe a soft surface on which to throw the book when you’re done, like I did. Definitely worth reading, but I wish things could have turned out so differently!
4 out of 5!