A Good Yarn
I read A Good Yarn for book club this month, and it was – more or less – the first time anyone but me had chosen a book from the romance section, though it’s more women’s fiction than anything else. I wasn’t sure what I’d think, since I’ve had mixed reactions to Debbie Macomber’s books in the past. But I found it a pleasant, albeit simple, read.
It’s actually the second book in a series about a woman who owns a yarn shop in Seattle, and the customers who become her friends. Lydia Hoffman is a two-time cancer survivor, and opening A Good Yarn was part of her personal recovery. She employs her sister Margaret, and as the book opens she decides to put together a sock-knitting class. The women who sign up seem like a diverse group – perhaps a little too diverse, Lydia thinks. Bethanne is in her forties and reeling from a recent divorce. Elise is a retired school librarian who lost her life savings to a dishonest home developer; she now lives with her daughter’s family. Courtney is an overweight teenager who moved in with her grandmother for her senior year of high school while her dad lives abroad.
The chapters go back and forth telling the stories from the points of view of the various women (including Lydia). Each of them has challenges. Bethanne has to face the reality of divorce and her need for a job, but doesn’t know where to begin after so many years out of the workforce. Elise has to deal with the unexpected arrival of her ex-husband, a professional gambler. Courtney wants to lose weight and make friends at her new school. And Lydia has to deal with Brad – the fiancé she was wildly in love with, who dumped her for his ex-wife. Margaret (more of a sideline figure) has financial worries when her husband is laid off, which concerns Lydia as well. Though the women think they are just getting together once a week to knit socks, they end up impacting each other’s lives. Each of them helps another one of the group in some way, and their lives change in positive ways as they knit socks for people they love.
Overall, I found this to be a positive story. It’s heartwarming, and a little – well – cozy. Probably because of the knitting. The women are all basically nice people, and though they have troubles in life, they get through them together and learn to depend on each other. It’s a sweet message, and the story was interesting enough to keep me turning pages.
The weakness in the book, at least for me, is that everything happened more or less as expected. There’s not really any subtlety or nuance to speak of; what you see is what you get. I think that appeals to many people, which explains Macomber’s large fan base. She’s clearly an extremely nice person (you can just tell, and besides, she sent a bunch of fun goodies to our book club), and her fans are probably all just as nice. Her characters are all nice too. But for some people, it may be too much “nice” all around.
The discussion of the book proved livelier than I would have thought, since it seemed to me that the women’s problems were pretty common. Many of the women in the room had experienced similar problems in their own lives. When someone couldn’t believe that Bethanne’s husband would have the nerve to leave her on Valentine’s Day, a book club member told us her first husband announced he was leaving her while they decorated their Christmas tree. Another woman (who has worked outside the home all her life), expressed had trouble understanding Bethanne’s intimidation at re-entering the working world. But several other women knew just how Bethanne felt.
Those with knitting aptitude might be interested to know that there is a knitting book based on A Good Yarn. I looked through it, and it looked pretty fun. Unfortunately, I proved to be knitting impaired; I failed at both the American and European methods (though I can tell you how they are different, if anyone wants to know), and decided to just watch everyone else instead. But I got the point, nonetheless. Whether it’s a book discussion, knitting, quilting, or (my personal preference) scrapbooking, something in us craves the company of other women. If you’d like to read a cozy little book with a women-helping-women theme, you could do worse.