The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society
by Beth Pattillo
Waterbrook Press, 2008
Eugenie Pierce has been the town librarian for forty years. Although Eugenie appears to be your typical small-town spinster librarian, she does have a fondness for helping what she calls her ‘strays’ – kids who need some special help. She’s found a new ‘stray’ in Hannah, a thirteen-year-old who has just ripped out a few pages in a library book on knitting.
For a number of years Eugenie has also been the leader of a women’s club that combines books and knitting. As the book begins we are introduced to each of the women who are a part of the club. Let me tell you about a some of them.
- Merry is a busy wife and mother who spends long hours taking care of the needs of her family. The Knit Lit Society’s meetings are a time when Merry can focus on her own needs. At the first meeting, however, she is distracted. She’s pregnant and can’t face having to tell her husband there is going to be a fourth child in the family.
- Camille is twenty-four and the daughter of one of the founding members of the Knit Lit Society. Camille’s mother has a terminal illness and Camille has put her own life on hold. She has returned to Sweetgum to take over her mother’s dress shop and her physical care. We soon learn there is a man in her life that she tells no one about.
- Then there are the two sisters, Ruthie and Esther. Ruthie is single, the church secretary. Esther is the leading matron of the town with all the best money can buy. There is conflict between them but not because of social status. I’m not giving it away but it would make juicy gossip.
For me, the heart of the story is Hannah. She’s the one I really care about. Although her mother is occasionally present in their run-down trailer, she’s all but abandoned Hannah. Hannah’s only real meals are those she gets at school. She has no close friends or anyone looking out for her. But she does love to read and so is drawn to the library. When Eugenie catches Hannah ripping out pages in the knitting book, Hannah’s punishment is to dust shelves in the library and become a member of the Knit Lit Society.
This well-written story follows the lives of all the member of the group over a period of many months. The characters change as the story develops. I enjoyed reading about the various knitting projects the members made each month that tied in with the particular book they were reading. (They made a goat-herder’s bag while reading Heidi.)
I liked the premise of the book and it was a character-rich novel. But — yes there is a but. I was disappointed in the women themselves. They didn’t seem to get together outside of the club meetings as true friends would do. At the end of the book they had the appearance of great friendship but I didn’t see how they got there. I also lost patience with these women in how they treated Hannah. They seemed so absorbed in their own problems. I thought someone should have jumped in a little sooner to give Hannah some very basic help. At least you’d think someone from the church would have gotten involved. For this reason, I’d suggest this as a good novel for a church related book group. Hopefully club members would compare the book to the needs of people within their own community and find ways to help.
I’ve read the Blossom Street books by Debbie Macomber and the Friday Night Knitting Club. This book compares favorably. They are all about groups of women who get together to knit and share their life’s problems. I thought Friday Night was just a bit more sophisticated than the others. Debbie Macomber’s writing is just plain sweet and homey that I always feel good reading one of her books. Sweetgum falls in the middle between those two.
Though I had some problems with the characters, Sweetgum was still a fun read. I will get a chance to visit with these characters again soon. A sequel, Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love, just came out this past June. I plan to read it. I believe in second chances.
You can buy Sweetgum Knit Lit Society at Amazon