A Good Yarn

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

For uptight librarian Elise Beaumont, it was bad enough that she had lost her retirement savings and had to move into her daughter's household. Her ex-husband's sudden reappearance after thirty years, staying in the same house where she lives, was absolutely too much. Bethann Hamlin's predicament as a newly single mother of teenagers terrifies her, especially since she has no marketable skills. Teenager Courtney Pulanski is adrift too, marooned in Seattle with her elderly grandmother while her engineer father works on a bridge-construction project in Brazil. Already desperate to lose weight, now Courtney has to start her senior year in a school where she knows no one.

By chance and family members’ urging, each of the three women reluctantly signs up for a class in knitting. Lydia, the instructor and yarn-shop owner, is struggling with some issues herself. She has survived two bouts with cancer, but finds a happily-ever-after future dissolving when her fiance's ex-wife comes back into his life. As summer goes on, events heighten the stress in each woman's life. But as they keep coming to the class, their initial wariness dissolves into friendship. Not only do the women draw moral support and practical advice from each other, but the group and the shop itself come to be a refuge where they renew their newfound strengths.

Some mildly unpredictable twists occur, but as the cheery cover illustration hints, everything turns out well in the end. If A Good Yarn has a flaw, it is the way that all of the book's female characters tackle interpersonal problems, with a mixture of distrust and ultimatums. They are forever telling the men in their lives to go away, then grieving if they do so. This makes for a sort of flattening of character motivation, even while it keeps the story moving. Aside from this canard, they are likable women, with troubles which could happen to anyone.

The yarn-shop background, which it shares with Debbie Macomber's previous novel The Shop on Blossom Street (2004), is an intriguing extra touch. Knitting comes across not only as a hobby, and a source of bonding, but an almost meditational form of centering. Macomber's books are very popular, and this “modern homespun” is bound to bring her new readers as well.