Last week I finished up Kate Jacobs’s The Friday Night Knitting Club (New York: Penguin Group, 2007). I went in with high expectations—always dangerous. I had seen it around since back in the day when I worked at Barnes & Noble. I thought that it looked cute—the power of a great cover strikes again—but I never picked it up. One day I saw it when perusing the clearance section at Half Price Books. One dollar for a book I’m already interested in reading? I’ll take it!
Literally years of anticipation and expectations went into my cracking open this book, and, as it usually goes with things like this, I was a bit disappointed by the reality. The premise of the book seemed to offer everything I was looking for—a group of fun, powerful women, crafting, and the relief of an easy read as an escape from editing manuscripts. While all of those aspects were present, they just didn’t quite come together they way that I so wanted them to.
Georgia Walker, a single mother of a twelve-year-old girl named Dakota, runs her own knitting shop—Walker and Daughter. She lives a quiet, fulfilling life, but she is plagued by a lack of closure from various areas in her past. Georgia and five of her friends begin the Friday Night Knitting Club, a place to escape from the stress of life and gab over delicious snacks. Though life throws a few curveballs at each woman, they continue to come together once a week—even after the most unexpected trial of all.
Jacobs successfully incorporates some twists and turns—a difficult feat nowadays, especially in books—and the book itself has some great unique elements. Each section begins with a bit of knitting philosophy as it relates to life, and the back matter includes a knitting pattern and a muffin recipe—such a cute, personalized addition. I loved it!
However, in addition to the tendency to err on the cheesy side (sometimes I could feel my cholesterol rising), my main issue with the text was this: the lives of the seven main women characters do not intersect in a Love Actually kind of style, like I had expected, but are instead minimally stitched together by the threads of the club’s weekly meeting. I found that this style severely limited the possibilities for character development in regard to the reader’s connection with each character. With so many subplots occurring on the side, none of the supporting characters felt adequately explored. The women simply do not seem involved enough in each other’s lives to have the kind of impact that they supposedly have on one another.
Had I worked on this novel, the above would have been the main focus of my edit. The relationships between all of the Friday Night Knitters do not truly begin to feel real until the arrival of the book’s largest plot twist, which occurs rather late in the text. True, a traumatic event often cements friendships, but there needs to be more of a foundation in place before this happens—particularly when the reader has already devoted themselves to 250+ pages before everything really gets going. Especially with the slow pace of the novel, there is plenty of time to develop these aspects further. Up until this point, the reader hardly ever sees the women meet with each other or talk outside of the club—with the exception of the pairings of Anita and Georgia and Darwin and Lucie. These narratives could have been woven together into one beautiful, multifaceted quilt, complete with each character’s own thoughts and unique interactions with others. Instead I feel I was left with one sweater, a scarf or two, and several pot holders.
However, none of these deficiencies inhibited what I believe is the book’s main success: I’ve already begun talking with a friend about lining up some knitting lessons. While it may not be a the next great American novel, there is no doubt that, as USA Today said, The Friday Night Knitting Club “makes you yearn for yarn.”
And who doesn’t love learning a new crafty hobby? Knitting, here I come!