So I lied.

May 30, 2008 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

This post was not even hinted at in the last one, and that’s because my mother has taken up the habit of shoving books in my hands and being like, “Here! Read this! You’ll really like it!” Most of these books involve young Amish people dealing with love and life in the order, but once in a while she actually choses a good one.

The latest novel she demanded I read was The Friday Night Knitting Club. I’m always kind of skeptical about novels that revolve around handicrafts, and here’s why: their target audience is almost always middle-aged Southern Baptist moms who are looking for something to read before bed.

That’s fine, especially if you happen to be a middle-aged Southern Baptist mom, but that’s not me and, as such, I never enjoy that kind of book. But Kate Jacobs seems to have taken the traditional form of the handicraft novel and tweaked it just enough to make it interesting.

The book is clichéd, yes. There are reunited fathers and daughters, pregnancies, and trips to find relatives abroad. But it’s not a Christian romance novel, and people actually cheat on their husbands, make sweaters that don’t fit and afghans that are really ugly, explore the tricky subject of race (albeit briefly and a little unconvincingly), and discuss the importance of gynecological appointments for sexually active senior citizens.

Because of those slightly different aspects, I got the feeling that Jacobs was trying very hard not to fall into the feel-good novel trap. This is most likely why she peppered her writing with very mild swear words that she probably felt gave her writing a hip edge. I don’t believe Kate Jacobs ever actually uses the word “damn” in real life, and I think she relies on it to bring validity and realism to her dialog, when it actually does just the opposite.

Still, she gets points for being pretty gutsy later in the novel. At the risk of revealing a spoiler, let’s just say that when something very terrible happens to a very loveable character, Jacobs lets it run its full, purely realistic course without trying to make much sense of it or imbue it with a moral lesson. Shit happens, Jacobs seems to say, and sometimes there’s not a reason. Though there are a few soppy scenes surrounding the incident (and throughout the novel), it was genuinely gut-wrenching without being preachy or too emotionally manipulative. Way to be — definitely a book worth borrowing.

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Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction.

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