Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: The Knitting Circle

This is my first official novel that I've listened to, not read.

My car is old enough (as most are) not to have an ipod jack. It took me several months of whining to myself about not being able to listen to my iPhone in the car to realize that upgrading my radio would be a lot cheaper than replacing my car. I'm clever like that. So hubby got the radio replaced for my birthday, and for Mother's Day bought me The Knitting Circle for my iPhone.

As mentioned in a previous post, Ann Hood's The Knitting Circle is the semi-autobiographical account of a woman named Mary whose daughter died suddenly at age 5. The novel picks up about 6 months after Stella's death, and tracks Mary's grief journey for a couple of years.

I didn't love it. The writing style was bland, the conversations contrived, and the storyline relatively predictable.

But, the content really spoke to me. Hood nails many of the experiences of a bereaved parent, from the awkward conversations with friends who now don't know what to say to you, to the pain of various anniversaries and memories, to the self-absorption that I think all bereaved parents experience and can't escape. She also described a clinical depression well.

And, she very capably explained the sedative properties of knitting, the way that the movement of the needles and the feel of the yarn somehow distracts the brain enough from the ongoing pain that there is a taste of relief.

I'm not sure if the act of listening to the book rather than reading it altered my experience of it or not. I sure did enjoy my commute more.

To me, a glaring omission was the lack of exploration of the existential angst that it seems that most bereaved parents go through. The is-there-a-god-why-did-you-god-screw-you-god-i-need-you-god-what's-the-effing-point that I have heard from most bereaved parents was very very absent. From an author's standpoint, I would think this would be worth exploring. I'm not sure why she left it alone.

It wasn't as depressing as I thought it would be. I did cry, in two places, but by and large I was not overwhelmed by the sadness of the story. It's interesting, years ago I swore off of Oprah's book club after reading Map of the World and another sad story, wondering why in the hell people would spend their free time reading tragic, depressing novels. Now I guess I know.


SOCKS said...

In my circle of friends the "In God We Trust" mentality is prevalent. I was raised as a PK (preacher's kid) and had assumed much of my religious leanings just like I knew I would go to college after high school - that was the course my life was to take.

You are more inquisitive and "fact focused" than my generation and have aptly questioned your beliefs, even before Henry fell ill and died.

The author might share your non-theist ideas, hence the minimalistic mention in her novel. She might not want to risk rejection from her readers, or may have felt this novel was not the appropriate arena for such a significant debate.

I do understand her appreciation for knitting and the therapy that it provides.

Susan said...

Ann Hood wrote an autobiographical book about her expreience losing her daughter in a book called "Comfort" I really appreciated that book - I would suggest it. I felt similarly about The Knitting Circle which I read after Comfort. I didn't want to return Comfort to the library and think I need to own it.

medstudentitis said...

In terms of books on tape - there is a wonderful woman named Davina Porter who reads books on tape and she is enchanting. I think she's the premier on tape reader I've come across and I always try to find books she has read. She reads a lot for audible. I would highly recommend her.

...tom... said...


you said...
"I'm clever like that."


No 'deep analysis' from me this time ... that was more than enough for me..!!