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August 23, 2008

The Friday Night Knitting Club



The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Contemporary Fiction
2008 Berkley
372 pages
Finished on 8/21/08
Rating: 3/5 (So-so)



Publisher's Blurb:

Once a week, an eclectic group of women comes together at a New York City yarn shop to work on their latest projects—and share the stories of their lives...

At the center of Walker and Daughter is the shop's owner, Georgia, who is overwhelmed with juggling the store and single-handedly raising her teenage daughter. Happy to escape the demands of her life, she looks forward to her Friday Night Knitting Club, where she and her friends—Anita, Peri, Darwin, Lucie and K.C.—exchange knitting tips, jokes, and their deepest secrets. But when the man who once broke Georgia's heart suddenly shows up, demanding a role in their daughter's life, her world is shattered.

Luckily, Georgia's friends are there for encouragement, sharing their own tales of intimacy, heartbreak, and miracle making. And when the unthinkable happens, these women will discover that what they've created isn't just a knitting club: it's a sisterhood.

In anticipation of setting up a "Women's Friendship" endcap at work, I dug through my stacks, looking for a few titles to add to the list of potential recommendations. I'd heard good things about this debut novel and was excited when I discovered it in a stack of books my mom brought for me earlier this summer when she was out visiting from Oregon. Thanks, Mom!

I've always been drawn to female friendship-type books, in spite of the growing realization that they're all so similar. Is it that difficult to be original or have I just read my fair share of this genre? It's almost as if one could create such a book by following a recipe:

Ingredients

1 elderly widow/mentor (wise and motherly)
1 divorcee (bitter & confused)
1 single parent with teenager (typically a child wise beyond his years, yet still rebellious)
1 married woman with fidelity issues
1 woman, married or single, with fertility concerns

Add the obligatory men (the good, the bad and the ugly)

Mix until blended; fold in 1 cancer victim and toss with a generous helping of saccharine. Voila! You've got yourself an instant best-seller, albeit trite and clich├ęd.

I don't knit, but the book appealed to me nonetheless. The title, however, doesn't quite fit. The book may be about knitting, but it really isn't about a club or group of women bound by their weekly meetings. Unlike so many of the typical friendship novels, this narrative doesn't focus a whole lot on the actual club gatherings. Instead it deals more with the characters and their personal dilemmas, with only brief mentions of knitting projects and solutions. The knitting club was really just a minor backdrop to the storyline. And only a couple the characters came to life for me; the majority remained one-dimensional stereotypes typical of the genre.

In spite of a fairly slow start (typical of this sort of book, which involves the introduction of a lot of similar characters all at once), and a mildly disappointing finale, I have to say the book was fairly entertaining. I looked forward to my reading time, as a couple of the characters began to grow on me. My heartstrings were gently tugged, leaving me with a lump in my throat on more than one occasion. And, quite surprisingly, I even found myself toying with the idea of heading over to Hobby Lobby to buy a skein of yarn and set of knitting needles. I am not a crafty person by any stretch of the imagination, but Jacobs includes instructions for a simple scarf and I'm tempted to give it a whirl. There's also a recipe for muffins. Hmmm, maybe I better stick to what I know and go with the baking. I'm sure my husband would enjoy the food more than a goofy-looking scarf and the odds are probably more in favor of completing the muffins.

The Friday Night Knitting Club won't wind up on my keeper shelf, but I'm not sorry I read it. And yes, I still plan to include it on my endcap. It's got a definite appeal to women of all ages, and has been quite popular with book groups. And, now that the word is out that Julia Roberts is starring in the upcoming film, I have a feeling more copies will start to fly off the shelves.

What's your favorite "Women's Friendship" book?

11 comments:

  1. I have this book here but haven't picked it up yet. I did recently reread ANGRY HOUSEWIVES EATING BON BONS and felt that it stood the test of time. That might be my favorite, but Patricia Gaffney also has a couple of good ones. I've liked an inspirational series with 7 books about the Yada Yada Prayer Group and then there is always the Ya Ya's.

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  2. "And when the unthinkable happens" When I read that I thought, oh yeah, let's see - cancer, or the death of one of their family members. When you mentioned a lump in your throat, I thought about how I often feel manipulated by books such as this. I've read a very few and intend to never read any more. You wrote an excellent, excellent review and I especially liked the list.

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  3. Your recipe cracked me up - isn't that so true of some of these books.

    I do like these types of books because they seem like comfort reads but I don't actually read very many of them.

    Do tell us what will end up on your bookstore endcap!

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  4. Outer Banks, hands down best women's friendship book!

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  5. Hmmm. I must not read a lot of women's friendship books since the first one that came to mind is Betsy-Tacy!

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  6. Hi Les! Remember me???
    My favorite Women's Friendship books are the Blossom Street Series by Debbie Macomber...
    I'm glad to have found you again.. I came here from Nan's~

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  7. I've always been drawn to books about women's friendships as well but you are so right -- they seem to be lacking originality anymore.

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  8. I keep encountering this at the bookstore but I haven't taken it home yet. Probably because I get the sense that it might be something like what you said, and I usually like to buy books that I would like to keep. I'm curious though, so I may end up gettin it from the library. I really enjoyed Snowflower and the Secret Fan.

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  9. Kay - I can't remember if you knit. If so, you might enjoy this a bit more than I did. Landvik's book is quite good and one that's on my list for the endcap. Glad it stood the test of time. And, yes, Gaffney has a couple of good ones, too. I'm including The Saving Graces on the list, as well. Oooh, I almost forgot about the Ya-Yas!!

    Nan- Yep, it was a bit manipulative. And, thanks. It was a fun review to put together. :)

    Iliana - It was fun "creating" the recipe. :)

    Yeah, they are sort of like comfort reads, aren't they? I should probably limit myself to one a year, though.

    I'll let you know what winds up on the endcap, not to worry!

    Jill - I have it in my stacks! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Tara - And I've never read Betsy-Tacy! :)

    Cara - Of course I remember you!! Glad you stopped by with your comment. :) I've only read the first in the Blossom Street series. Thanks for reminding me of it, though. This book is a bit similar. See you around the blogosphere!

    Katya - I wonder why we're drawn to them? Affirmation of our own lives and friendships?

    Nicole - Would you like me to send you my copy? I'm not planning to keep it.

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  10. Les, you should try the Betsy-Tacy series sometimes. They are absolutely charming stories about little girls. There is a series and I read them repeatedly as a young girl.

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  11. Tara - I'll add them to my mental TBR list. Thanks!

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