Georgia Walker is a survivor. Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Georgia relocated to New York City after college to start a career in publishing. There she finds career success, friendship and even love. But when an unexpected pregnancy enters the picture, Georgia's boyfriend turns tail and runs, leaving her to raise their daughter alone. Georgia doesn't give up and head back to her parents, though; instead, on the advice of a nurturing acquaintance, Anita, Georgia takes her talent and passion for knitting and turns it into a career. She starts by knitting projects on commission and eventually raises enough money to start her own yarn shop.
Fast forward to the present. Georgia and her preteen daughter, Dakota, live upstairs from their popular knitting store, Walker and Daughter. Business is good thanks to some recent publicity, and Georgia is content, even if she admits that she's sometimes lonely. In the course of a few short months, though, Georgia's world is about to turn upside down.
First, Dakota's father James, who has been living and working abroad, returns to New York, wanting to get involved in his daughter's life for the first time. Georgia resists at first, but soon acknowledges the positive effect James's presence has on Dakota's life. James, who is African American, offers Dakota not only expensive gifts but also a connection to a part of her heritage that Georgia just can't provide. But what can she do when James seems to want to rekindle his relationship with Georgia, too? Can she forgive his betrayals and long absence?
Second, Cat, a high school friend of Georgia's who is now a primped and toned trophy wife in Manhattan, contacts Georgia to knit a very special evening gown for a very spicy commission. Can Georgia overcome her bitterness following Cat's betrayal from decades before, and even find room for renewed friendship with her somewhat self-centered former friend?
Finally, Georgia, who has always resisted close friendships, finds herself drawn into the lives of the knitters who comprise Walker and Daughter's newly formed Friday Night Knitting Club. At first, Georgia simply hangs around the margins of the group, but almost before she knows it, she grows to regard these very different women as true friends --- friends who will be there to support her when she needs it most.
Debut novelist Kate Jacobs, who has had a long career in women's magazine publishing, certainly taps into the Zeitgeist with this accessible novel about friendship and love first, and knitting second.
Hardcore knitting enthusiasts might scorn the numerous mistakes that litter Jacobs's interludes about knitting techniques. But that's not really the point here; as one club member points out, knitting group is often really more about conversation and friendship than it is about the knitting. That's kind of how the novel is, too. Readers who enjoy stories about the complexities of women's lives, and the structure and resilience of women's friendships, will enjoy what they find here.
Georgia's character is particularly well developed; she is by no means perfect, and many female readers will identify with her romantic dilemmas, her self-doubts about parenting, and her ambivalent attitude toward her sometimes obnoxious old friend, Cat. However, her survival instincts and genuine compassion make her an inspiring, winning character. It's no wonder that real-life knitter Julia Roberts will be producing and starring in a film adaptation of THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB, set for release in 2008.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 22, 2011
The Friday Night Knitting Club