November 1, 2012

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

I can't explain it. If there was a group for Widows Who Were Just About to Get Divorced, I'd bloody join it, I definitely would. It's absolutely crap; I can't be a poor widow, mourning the loss of the love of my life, and I can't be a Just Divorced and Still Fuming, either, so it's hopeless. You really know you're in trouble when there isn't even a support group you can join.

After starting fall out with 80°+ weather in Southern California, it's finally starting to cool down here so I thought I'd recommend a great book to cozy up to with your hot cocoa in between knitting {Or while you're waiting for the power to come back on, east coast! My prayers are with you all as you recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Gil McNeil's novel The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club is a story about Jo Mackenzie's search for identity as a woman and mother during tragic time in her life. Shortly after confessing an affair and proposing a divorce, Jo's husband dies in a car accident, leaving her with two young boys and a secret second mortgage she didn't know about. Jo decides to leave busy London and move to a small seaside village, purchasing her grandmother's yarn shop. There Jo reinvents the shop, which includes a "Stitch and Bitch" group, and also realigns herself and her priorities as a woman and mother.

My biggest complaint with this book is the title and synopses I found on the internet; I know that sounds like a strange complaint, but the book I read was a very loose representation of what was advertised. First of all, the "Stitch and Bitch" club that Jo creates at her yarn shop never dons the name "Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club", as is implied in the book title. Secondly, while the club was an integral part of Jo's realignment in the second half of the book, it in no way dominates this novel enough to be the title. In fact, some of the more important characters like Ellen and Grace aren't even a part of the club and I found it unfortunate that this title probably won out for cute, trendy marketing purposes.

As for the synopses found online {i.e. Amazon, Good Reads}, they say, "when a new man enters Jo's life, and an A-list actress moves into the local mansion, the knitting club has even more trouble confining the conversation to knit one, purl two"; this is completely untrue! The knitting club is the only group of people who don't hassle Jo about her new celebrity friend and none of them even know about the man who enters her life! This description makes me want to rip my hair out! It reminds me of a book report by someone who obviously didn't read the whole book. 

If I put my grievances with the title and publisher aside, I rather enjoyed the book, even though not much really happened. Every time the story seemed like it was going to take a huge turn in a new direction, not much came from it. But what I loved about the story is that it was very human and true-to-life. Jo isn't perfect in the end and her life's problems aren't solved, but she gains a better understanding of what it takes to survive the ups and downs life throws at her; and most of what it takes are great friends, some of which are part of her knitting group. 

I'm not going to race out to read the sequels to this novel, but I think I will read them eventually because I did love the characters and enjoy McNeil's writing style. Another thing I enjoyed is that this book really encouraged me to learn to knit with knitting needles. I use knitting looms right now and even have a knitting & prayer ministry, but using sticks like Jo sounds much cooler after reading this book! 

Bottom Line: Read this if you don't need crazy twists and turns to entertain you; it's got a great message and wonderfully written characters. Just beware not to judge this book by its cover, title or synopsis! 3½/5 stars {but I rounded up once I put my annoyance of the title and synopsis aside).

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