Full disclosure: this was not the first time I’ve read Ann Hood’s The Knitting Circle. I read it before I started documenting my books online or even in my old notebook, but I know I read this. Also, part of the reason I picked this book to read was because I just started knitting and I thought it would be fun to see someone get lost in the hobby that I just started.
After the loss of her only child, Mary Baxter can barely breath let alone live the life she had beforehand. She cannot work, cannot drive by the parks that her daughter once played at, or frequent the coffee shops where other mothers gather while their children are at school. It seems her whole world is a reminder of what she no longer has and she closes herself away from it. Somehow she finds her way the a knitting store and begins to learn how to knit. She loses herself in the focus it requires to learn knitting and how the whole world shrinks down to the needles and yarn when she creates her first scarf.
(Side note: the speed at which she completes some of this projects astounds me. I’ve been knitting the same thing for weeks now and have ripped it out at least 20 times due to all the screw ups I find. I don’t know if the fact that Mary is able to knit at the speed and accuracy portrayed is meant to show how much focus, energy, and time she’s devoting to this new obsession or if Hood is just unaware how hard it is to pick up knitting and complete a piece without massive amounts of errors in the time she allowed.)
As Mary learns how to create different knitted works, she learns the sad back stories of the other members of the knitting circles. In teaching Mary different techniques, they open up their hearts and share their own story of loss, violence, grief, anger, and how they have also felt the inability to move after a disaster in their lives. The knitting circle is a circle of survivors that work together to live a life that differs from the ones they had before. Even thinking about the stories makes my eyes water and you shouldn’t think about reading this without a box of tissues nearby.
Ann Hood captures some horrible stories yet brings hope and endurance to each one. Knitting is the way this group survived their life and they help Mary get through hers. The friendships that are created from this shared hobby strengthens the group and each member, helping to move on to the next stage of their life. Mary uses the knitting to focus away from her grief, but it also allows her the time for her heart to heal, just enough, to live again.
This is a powerful book of stories and how we all have a past, and no matter how perfect someone might look, we are fragile and flawed and we are all trying to survive each day the best that we can. Very cathartic read.
Read April 2014