three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
By: 
Ann Hood
user_rating: 
0

A-The Knitting CircleNewspaper writer Mary Baxter feels her life has come to an end when her five-year-old daughter succumbs to meningitis. After the funeral, she withdraws completely from her husband, her friends, her career; she becomes lost in a fog of pain and confusion as one day stretches interminably into the next. When her estranged mother encourages her to take up knitting, she finds herself the newest member of a weekly knitting circle. Slowly, as hats and scarves begin to take shape, so do the personal stories of the other members. Sharing their own experiences of tragedy, survival, and hope, they reach out to Mary and prove to her that it is possible to heal—and that she is not alone.
Norton. 384 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0393059014

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Hood manages this large cast of characters well; their stories are distinct enough to avoid merging into an undifferentiated river of woe. … It’s a wondrously simple book about something complicated: the nearly unendurable process of enduring after a great loss." Carrie Brown

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Writer Ann Hood has written seven previous novels, and it shows in her strong writing and Mary’s precisely rendered mourning. … Not all of the women’s stories rise above stock characters." Yvonne Zipp

Newsday 3.5 of 5 Stars
"I know how unlikely it sounds that I closed The Knitting Circle feeling uplifted, even cleansed. … What a gift for Ann Hood, who suffered a loss nearly identical to Mary Baxter’s, to have made of her grief." Marion Winik

Providence Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"The particulars of each woman’s tragedy are unique, but the fact of their tragedies becomes predictable, such that as each woman’s history unfolds, it almost becomes a guessing game—a sort of ‘name her heartbreak’ for the reader." Beth Schwartzapfel

Boston Globe 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Were it not for Mary’s compelling voice, it would be easy to write off this book as formulaic in structure and almost banal in execution. But her grief is solitary, messy, and pervasive; her gradual reengagement with others has an uneven pace and stuttering quality that make it undeniably real." Julie Wittes Schlack

Critical Summary

Ann Hood lost her own young daughter to a rare form of strep, and in this semiautobiographical novel, she reveals the searing pain, the upheaval, and the loss of self that accompany such a heartbreaking event. Critics applauded Hood’s intense, unbearably sincere portrayal of grief. However, some felt that the cast of characters was so large and unwieldy that many were caricatures serving merely as vehicles for different steps in the healing process. Those who appreciate the comforting click of knitting needles will find kindred spirits in The Knitting Circle, but it’s not necessary to know the difference between casting on and casting off to enjoy this poignant novel.