THE KNITTING CIRCLE

Ann Hood

 In the spirit of How to Make an American Quilt and The Joy Luck Club, a novel about friendship and redemption. After the sudden loss of her only child, Stella, Mary Baxter joins a knitting circle in Providence, Rhode Island, as a way to fill the empty hours and lonely days, not knowing that it will change her life. Alice, Scarlet, Lulu, Beth, Harriet, and Ellen welcome Mary into their circle despite her reluctance to open her heart to them. Each woman teaches Mary a new knitting technique, and, as they do, they reveal to her their own personal stories of loss,

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 In the spirit of How to Make an American Quilt and The Joy Luck Club, a novel about friendship and redemption. After the sudden loss of her only child, Stella, Mary Baxter joins a knitting circle in Providence, Rhode Island, as a way to fill the empty hours and lonely days, not knowing that it will change her life. Alice, Scarlet, Lulu, Beth, Harriet, and Ellen welcome Mary into their circle despite her reluctance to open her heart to them. Each woman teaches Mary a new knitting technique, and, as they do, they reveal to her their own personal stories of loss, love, and hope. Eventually, through the hours they spend knitting and talking together, Mary is finally able to tell her own story of grief, and in so doing reclaims her love for her husband, faces the hard truths about her relationship with her mother, and finds the spark of life again. By an “engrossing storyteller,” this new novel once again “works its magic” (Sue Monk Kidd).

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  • W. W. Norton
  • Hardcover
  • January 2007
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780393059014

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About Ann Hood

Ann Hood is the author of seven novels and a short-story collection, An Ornithologist’s Guide to Life. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Praise

I know how unlikely it sounds that I closed The Knitting Circle feeling uplifted, even cleansed. I felt as if I were seeing with fresh eyes, ready to forgive old hurts and entertain new thoughts. What a gift for Ann Hood, who suffered a loss nearly identical to Mary Baxter’s, to have made of her grief.” Newsday

“A wonderfully simple book about something complicated: the nearly unendurable process of enduring after a great loss.” Washington Post

“One can only admire Hood for the effort she makes in this book to describe an insupportable grief….The lesson–that by being willing to share our stories, we learn how to live–cannot be dismissed.” Boston Globe

Hood’s “attention to craft and her experience as a novelistand journalistmakes for an intelligent, moving read in which knitting is the tie that binds these women together and helps them to heal. Hood also brings her personal experience to the novel and transforms a life-changing event into art.”Pages Magazine

Discussion Questions

“Time heals all wounds.” So goes an old saying. How does time affect the process of mourning as witnessed in the lives of the women in The Knitting Circle?

What is it about knitting that makes the activity so therapeutic?

Describe the different reactions to loss experienced by the various characters in the novel. What do they hold in common? What makes each individual’s situation unique?

Mary frequently reacts to others with feelings of envy and bitterness at their good fortune, from Beth to Jessica. What insecurities on Mary’s part are revealed in her interactions with other characters in the novel?

Is Mary too self-indulgent when it comes to emerging from her grief?

Describe the importance of forgiveness in the healing processes of the characters in The Knitting Circle.

Why does it take so long for Mamie to open up to her daughter about her earlier difficulties in life? Is she entirely to blame for her reticence, or is Mary partly responsible as well?

How is Mary’s troubled relationship with Mamie manifested in her grief over Stella?

How does Mary and Dylan’s understanding of the bond of marriage evolve over the course of the novel?

Why doesn’t Mary’s relationship with Connor last?

In times of distress, Mary’s impulse is often to avoid others. What is the appeal of not discussing our emotional difficulties?

How important is it to the women at Big Alice’s Sit and Knit that theirs is a female-dominated knitting circle?

How are the boundaries of family redefined for Mary in the years after Stella’s death?

Toward the end of The Knitting Circle, how is Mary’s involvement with Holly’s baby different from what it might have been at the novel’s beginning?

Does Mary’s recounting of Stella’s death before her friends signify her full recovery from her loss? What more healing remains to be done after the novel’s close?