Three books for this round:
1. The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. I was lucky enough to get an Advance Reader's Copy of this. It's the story of a woman whose young daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly, and her attempt to pick up and go on with her life. I will admit that I was skeptical, as I'm not a big fan of books that go like this: Woman experiences great tragedy. No one understands woman. Woman seeks solace in sexual relationship with other man/woman/neighbor's dog. Woman still has hole in her life. Woman meets another woman/women and they bond in a sisterhood more intense than life itself. Other women show Woman how to cook/paint/knit/play the piano, and her life is changed. Woman finds life affirmation from other woman/women, while realizing that she was a wonderful person in the first place.
The Knitting Circle then, was a nice surprise. Because though the central character does experience great tragedy, the book addresses her experiences in a pretty believable way, compared to what I was expecting. The feelings and sense of despair, and later those of realizing and acccepting that life goes on, are very well written, and make it seem more like a story about something that actually happened to a real person.
The main character learns to knit, mainly to get her mother off her back. She finds that she likes knitting scarves, and through the other women at the knitting circle where she takes knitting lessons, she learns not only new stitches, but what things brought other people there. The characters are to some degree predictable, but Ann Hood draws them in a way that makes you think they are - or are based on - real flesh and blood persons.
I found this book to be a good read, and I think it expressed the feelings of sadness, loneliness, and just plain ick that you experience when you lose someone that you love, in a true fashion. I think the non-fiction The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, published last year, was about as close to describing grief in words as you can get. But in my opinion, there are parts of The Knitting Circle that do this nearly as well in a fictional framework.
Now I just hope it doesn't become some annoying Hollywood vehicle. At least Julia Roberts (she's America's Sweetheart, you know) has bought the film rights to some other knitting book ...
2. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. The December book for Knit the Classics, and a story that for me at least, is just as good every time I read it. The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation from a miserable, miserly, inconsiderate grump, to a generous, kindly soul never gets old. I love that it serves as a reminder to not just people who are well to do, but to all of us, that there are people in the world who would give anything to be in our shoes on our worst day. I am happy at the end to learn that Scrooge became someone who kept Christmas in his heart all year round, and I wish that more people could be like him (including myself).
This of course has been made into numerous movies and adaptations, and some of them are particularly well done. Others ... not so much.
(I will admit that Tiny Tim kinda annoys me. I'm all for looking for the best in people, blah, blah, blah, but some people are just so cheerful and kindly, you wish you could slap them. Having said that, I do appreciate what Tiny Tim represents, and why he is so important to the story. So he can stay ... )
3. The Picture of Guilt by Libby Fischer Hellman. Towards the end of the month, I decided that I was in the mood to read a mystery, and I found this in a pile of books while cleaning out a room. I had gotten it at an ALA conference a year or so ago, and it was a signed copy, so I thought the least I could do was read it. (Am I magnanimous or what?)
Well, it's a good read. Not the best book I've ever read, not amazingly written, but a really good read. The story takes place in Chicago, so I was especially able to visualize a lot of the places and things that Hellman describes. The story revolves around a woman who does video production, mostly training films and such, for agencies and corporations. She becomes involved in a murder case when she recognizes someone being tried for murder as a person who she remembers being in the background of a film she shot about a year before. Thinking that she has evidence that will prove he is not the murderer, she speaks up. Before long, her life is in an uproar, and she is inadvertently involved with the mob, terrorism, and the Chicago power grid. (Note: Of all the places I've lived, Chicago had the best mobster's names - The Big Tuna, Joey the Clown, etc. Those are mobster's names. But I digress.)
The writing keeps up a good pace, and the involvement of the main character, at least, is within the [remote] realm of possibility. I would recommend it when you are in the mood for a mystery, especially one that takes place in the present day (more or less).
Once again, I have to hope that Hollywood or Lifetime Television for Women ("Mother May I Sleep with an Innocent Person Wrongly Sent to Prison?") will leave this one alone.