Real Men Knit
Though I don’t have the time for it that I used to, I love knitting. I enjoy watching my sometimes clumsy hands weave things into being out of the yarn, but perhaps more importantly, I love how it can be an inclusive and communal craft. Online and offline, knitting communities seem to spring up wherever one can find yarn. Real Men Knit captures this beautifully, and I loved this warm hug of a book.
As the book opens, we learn that the much-loved Mama Joy has died, leaving her four adopted sons grieving her loss and also not entirely certain what to do about her shop, Strong Knits. And then there’s Kerry Fuller. Kerry grew up in the neighborhood, and Mama Joy and Strong Knits have been the center of her world. She worked there while completing her degree, and the shop is clearly home to her.
That idea of the knitting shop as a home runs clearly throughout the book. As the story develops, we learn more about Mama Joy and about how her shop in Harlem did more than just sell yarn. With knitting circles and ever-expanding service projects to the neighborhood, I got the distinct impression that, in many ways, this shop gave as much as it got.
The community nature of the shop explains why the Strong brothers have such difficulty deciding what to do. As one brother points out, the shop wasn’t the world’s biggest moneymaker in Mama Joy’s later years. However, Jesse Strong, youngest of the brothers, could see that their corner of Harlem would lose more than just a store if it were to close, and he pushes for the chance to keep it open. And so it begins.
Much of the first half of the book deals with the adjustments being made following Mama Joy’s death, as well as introducing readers to the Strong brothers and to Kerry. We learn pretty quickly that Jesse is the least settled of the four brothers, still trying to find his calling and definitely something of the neighborhood heartbreaker. Kerry clearly knows Jesse’s reputation, so even if he’s gorgeous, she’s keeping her distance emotionally – even if she has been attracted to him for the last while.
Since Kerry is on board with Jesse’s plan to save the store, keeping her distance is easier said than done. When they are working together, it is obvious that in addition to being longtime friends, they have great chemistry. If you like a slow-burn, this is going to be your thing, because the romance in this book builds gradually, and the leads don’t really get together until the second half of the book. However, that building chemistry and the vivid portrait of the family and their role in the neighborhood kept me completely engaged.
I will admit that Jesse’s past ‘love them and leave them’ attitude towards women made it a little hard for me to warm up to him at first. I wanted to see how he would treat Kerry, but I also wanted to see what, if anything, he would do to make amends for his past. He did make welcome steps in that direction, but I wanted to see a little more of his change of heart.
However, even with that quibble, I adored this novel. While the romance is central to the plot, much time is also spent developing the family dynamics of the entire Strong family. I enjoyed being welcomed into their midst, and I can’t wait to read more. Here’s hoping for a sequel!