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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Friday Night Knitting Club Not the Cozy Afghan I Expected

Knitting may be the newest trend on the Upper East Side, but Georgia Walker learned the art as a child. Tutored by her Scottish Gran, Georgia has become a master knitter, turning her passion into a successful yarn shop. Walker and Daughter (a fictional business) becomes even more popular when an informal gathering of women knitters of all ages, backgrounds and skill level solidifies into The Friday Night Knitting Club. Members include the reserved Georgia; her baking-obsessed daughter Dakota; Georgia's 72-year-old mentor Anita; Peri, a promising handbag designer; Lucie, a single woman whose biological clock has stopped ticking and is starting to alarm; Darwin, the cranky college student; and K.C., Georgia's boisterous friend from publishing. Beginning as mostly strangers, the women soon become friends who share their triumphs, aspirations and heartaches, of which they all have plenty.

The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacob's debut novel, discusses all the women, but focuses mainly on Georgia Walker. The single mother has worked exhaustively to make her business, and her life, a success. Almost singlehandedly, she has done both. True, she's a little lonely, but that starts to evaporate as the club becomes more and more important to her. Her life is far from perfect, though. For one thing, Dakota's father has returned to New York and is working hard to buy his way into his daughter's life. Georgia is stunned to find that her philandering ex-boyfriend wants to wheedle his way back into her good graces as well. Dakota finds her father enchanting, even as Georgia promises herself she will not fall under his spell again. All the tension is getting to her. She's exhausted. Then, an old rival breezes into the shop, flashing her Platinum card and demanding Georgia create a custom evening gown for her. Knowing she can't refuse the commission, Georgia suddenly finds herself slaving away for the woman whose betrayal ended their childhood friendship.

As if Georgia doesn't have enough woes, she's also caught in the drama of her friends' lives. Anita, whose health seems to be fading, refuses to slow down. She's also ignoring her crush on the kind deli owner downstairs, afraid a new romance will tarnish the memory of her long-dead husband. Then there's Darwin, the enigma who comes to club meetings, but doesn't knit. Everyone's surprised to hear the story of her long-distance marriage to a harried medical intern who barely has time to call his lonely wife. Always upbeat K.C. can't seem to find her niche, or anything resembling knitting skills. When she decides to aim for a law degree, her friends tutor her, but can she really make it work? There's also Peri, Georgia's part-time assistant, who's defying her parents in pursuit of her own passion. Lastly comes Lucie, who's looking decidedly peaked. What's her secret, anyway? As the women struggle through their own crises, the one thing that sustains them all is their knitting club.

The Friday Night Knitting Club concerns needlework, but it's really about friendship. It's about women gathering to shake off loneliness, learn together and support each other through thick and thin.

I enjoyed this story in general, but there were a few things that annoyed me. For one thing, the way Jacobs used the omniscient point of view made me crazy. She shifted POV in the middle of sections, even in the middle of paragraphs. I think when a story involves as many characters as this one, it's important to keep their voices separate, otherwise the reader becomes confused (and irritated, in my case). Especially considering the ending of the novel (which I'll get to in a minute), I really think Jacobs should have divided the women's stories into clear sections, and given all of the players equal "speaking" time. Perhaps that would have fleshed out some of the characters more, allowing for a warmer tone and a better flow to the story. The most frustrating aspect of this book for me, however, was the ending. I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say Jacobs employed one of the most overused plot twists in fiction. Not only was the ending sappy, but it made everything that came before it look contrived. In light of the ending, certain happenings (like the arrival of both James and Cat) are just a little too convenient. There were other situations I thought were unrealistic, but the finale bugged me the most.

Despite these issues, The Friday Night Knitting Club kept me entertained. I didn't love it, but I liked it well enough. Let's just say it wasn't the nice, soft, cozy afghan I wanted - it was more like the one that looks pretty draped over the sofa, but itches too much to be truly comfortable.

Grade: B-

1 comment:

  1. Ugh! Omniscient point of view?! I hate that POV. I've had this book checked out from the library for at least 8 weeks now and haven't started it yet. Hmm. . . now I'm not sure if I should get it over with or return it.


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