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Sandra Fildes is a woman who knows what she wants. Brilliant,
high-achieving, confident Sandra is an expert in her field, the
historical study of textiles. When Sandra's husband Jack passes
away after a long illness, though, Sandra finds herself at a loss
about how to fill her days --- and her life --- on her own.

Martha McKenzie may be Sandra's polar opposite. About the only the
thing the two women have in common is the loss of their husbands;
Martha's husband passed away shortly after their marriage many
years ago, when Martha was just a teenager. Now Martha leads a
quiet, unassuming life, cleaning a local church, living in a small
flat, and filling her hours by practicing her art. Martha is a
knitter, but not just an ordinary "knit a baby blanket for a
friend" knitter; Martha is a true artist, with an intuitive eye for
color, a daring and inventive sense of design, and the skills of a

Through a chance meeting, the two women form an unexpected
friendship. Sandra admires Martha's quirky ways and her obvious
talents; Martha envies Sandra's wealthy lifestyle and enjoys
cracking her tough veneer. The two women find common ground when it
comes to knitting. Through shared conversations, the two form a
plan to mount an exhibition of historically accurate knitted
garments, accompanied by text discussing the importance of women's
domestic work through the ages. "It's something to celebrate," says
Sandra, "clothes made in love and service, something women have
always done."

Sandra, a merely competent knitter at best, commissions Martha to
do all the knitting for the exhibit. Martha, a perfectionist with a
history of mental instability, finds the task almost impossible.
When Sandra realizes that her incessant pressure brings Martha to
the verge of a nervous breakdown, she must reevaluate her whole
approach to relationships, including her idealized relationship
with her late husband.

Although the title of Anne Bartlett's debut novel is KNITTING,
knitting is merely one theme in this small, quiet novel. The
healing power of women's friendship, the sustaining quality of
meaningful work, the gradual process of healing after grief --- all
are explored against the backdrop of a simple story about two women
forming an unlikely friendship. Although Sandra is a prickly
character who may repel many readers, and although Martha is
portrayed as a little too eccentric to be a realistic companion for
Sandra, the novel's general premise rings true, and its lovely
descriptions of Martha's knitted masterpieces will appeal to
knitters and non-knitters alike.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 22, 2011

by Anne Bartlett

  • Publication Date: April 16, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0618499261
  • ISBN-13: 9780618499267