A sisterhood of close friends, a mutual love of knitting, interracial relationships, a battle with cancer – all of these themes can be found in Kate Jacobs’s debut novel, The Friday Night Knitting Club.
The stage is set when Georgia unexpectedly becomes pregnant by her boyfriend, James. Unsure about fatherhood, James leaves Georgia with barely a good-bye. Georgia considers moving back home when she meets Anita, who is impressed with Georgia’s knitting talents and encourages the young woman to knit her way to financial freedom. Years later, with Anita’s encouragement and a strong desire to succeed, Georgia fulfills her dream of opening up her own knit shop in Manhattan.
While knitting is her passion and livelihood, Georgia’s life revolved around her precocious 12-year-old daughter, Dakota. Anita – once an acquaintance – now is Georgia’s dearest friend and employee. Together, they have created the Friday Night Knitting Club at Georgia’s shop. Knitters come to eat Dakota’s goodies, get instruction about their knitting projects, and gab about their lives.
As life will do, though, monkey wrenches are heading Georgia’s way. James, who has been living abroad, moves back to New York, wanting to form a stronger bond with Dakota. He showers Dakota with presents and offers a connection that Georgia cannot – a tie to Dakota’s African-American heritage. Additionally, James hopes to rekindle his romantic relationship with Georgia, but she is afraid to “go there” again.
Another monkey wrench is the re-emergence of Cathy, Georgia’s old friend, who is living in Park Avenue glory. Cathy commissions Georgia to knit an evening gown. Like James, Cathy attempts to restart her friendship with Georgia, but the gun-shy Georgia is wary of her old friend, especially after their disastrous friendship ended many years ago.
While all these events plague Georgia’s life, the reader also discovers the issues in the other knitters’ lives – women who want children, a new career, or a way to escape their marriage. As they reveal their own problems, their friendship among knitting needles and yarn strengthened – and eventually tested when one of the members becomes ill from ovarian cancer.
The Friday Night Knitting Club is a book that would make a better movie. Lo and behold, it will be, starring Julia Roberts (who coincidentally was mentioned in the novel). Julia can draw from her Steel Magnolia days to create a better Georgia than the author does. Jacobs doesn’t develop Georgia’s character fully in this story, perhaps because she devotes so much time on the other knitters’ stories that Georgia gets lost in the shuffle.
This book could be a welcome “poolside” treat for lovers of chick lit and “knitting fiction.” However, it is important to mention that knitting is not a central theme to the book. Moreover, the deeper side of chick lit – the strong female relationships, the revelation of one’s own life and other themes – is notably absent from this story. When I want to read about camaraderie among women or more thought-provoking chick lit, I will reach for Jennifer Weiner or Lorna Landvik before attempting Kate Jacobs again.