The head of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is Eugenie Carson, the town librarian and wife of Paul, Pastor of Sweetgum Christian Church. Eugenie and Paul have recently married after his wife of several decades passed away from cancer. The other ladies of the Knit Lit Society are Merry, mother of four and wife of a local lawyer; Camille, the 24-year-old owner of a dress shop in town, grieving the recent loss of her mother; Esther, a widow in her 50s under financial duress; Hannah, a 15-year-old who was taken in by Eugenie and Paul when her mother left; and Maria, the newest member who works at the family's near-obsolete five-and-dime store downtown. These ladies are readers and knitters, some more than others, but they gather to discuss books and to gain perspectives from the connection of the group.
The theme Eugenie has chosen for discussions is classic romance, and the women of the group are assigned to read romantic pieces like ROMEO AND JULIET, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, SONG OF SOLOMON and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, along with corresponding knitting patterns. Eugenie asks each one of them to define love, and they do so in their own way and discuss ideas as a group. Naturally, their perspectives about love change with experiences each one of them goes through over the weeks between meetings.
Eugenie is trying very hard to be a loving guardian to Hannah and faces new pressures of being a pastor's wife, with one gossipy woman giving her a hard time about not being “Christian enough.” Merry is trying to support her husband and manage motherhood while going back to work for the first time since her children were born. Camille is struggling with her desires to leave Sweetgum to go to college and hooking up with a past love who has just moved back to town. Esther has realized the necessity of major life changes because of her recent financial situation, and when she hits a dog on the road, she finds a new friend who might just be the love of her life. Hannah is trying to find stability and acceptance and falls in love with her closest childhood friend. Maria faces the sale of her family's farm after the death of her father and meets an intriguing new man.
THE SWEETGUM LADIES KNIT FOR LOVE is great light reading that women will really enjoy. All the characters are very likable and have unique perspectives and desires. One of the scoops in the book that I really enjoyed was that of Eugenie and the town gossip, Hazel, who likes to spend all her time dealing out judgment and harassing Eugenie that she isn't “Christian enough” to belong or to be married to the pastor. Eugenie responds by telling Hazel that she has a right to keep her relationship with God private and that it doesn't fall within ethical standards to deal out judgment.
Although the novel isn't generally deep or thought-provoking, its message is an important one, about being a good person and learning to find love in your own way.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on June 2, 2009