Georgia Walker, the ill-fated heroine of Kate Jacobs’ novel, “The Friday Night Knitting Club,” focuses so much of her attention on others—her friends, her daughter—that she often forgets to think of herself. Georgia is a single mother and a “mompreneur” who runs her oawn knitting shop on the Upper West Side in New York City. The titular club is a weekly gathering of women who share a passion for social knitting. The group forms when some of the shop’s regular customers begin to loiter after hours at the circular table in the back, offering each other knitting tips, sharing life tips, but mostly just chatting. At first, Georgia shies away from the club women, assuming a business-like remove from their giddy banter, but soon she finds herself sucked into the sisterhood and the ins and outs of each woman’s problems. Although Georgia certainly has some of her own.
Georgia Walker lends her space and her loving attention to these women—Lucie the T.V. exec, K.C. the aspiring lawyer, Anita the senior citizen, Darwin the graduate student, Dakota the daughter—just as Jacobs attempts to lend the space of her novel to a multitude of characters. Clarity only begins to take hold about two hundred pages in, as the reader sorts out names and back stories and relatives. With her clan of women Jacobs is making a genuine (and conspicuous) effort to relate her book to every potential reader, from the under-sexed to the over-sexed, from the businesswoman with no free time to the socialite with too much of it. Sometimes her limited knowledge of certain experiences—say, those of a graduate student—manifests itself embarrassingly. Darwin, a PhD candidate in Women’s Studies whose name aptly reflects her intellectual bent, begins to conduct her dissertation research at the knitting club as if on a whim (Where is her advisor?), aiming to portray knitting as an unusual phenomenon—a sort of “throwback” to pre-feminist days. But even Darwin, in time, learns to appreciate the art of knit and purl. She alters her thesis accordingly. Almost inevitably, the patchwork of stories that intertwine in “The Friday Night Knitting Club” finds its counterpart in the afghan all the women knit together toward the novel’s close.
When tragedy strikes, the author seems to lose interest in her story, and the novel flops. As Georgia’s good friend, Lucie, groans a baby girl into the world, Georgia quietly dies from cancer complications in the same hospital. The suddenness of her death is cruel to the reader, since Jacobs’ writing is far too inept to give the moment with the emotion it demands. After three hundred and fifty pages devoted to Georgia Walker (it is undeniable that Jacobs has some insight into the trials of an urban woman), the flimsiness of the dialogue that surrounds her deathbed is insulting to the protagonist. Dakota, daughter, merely says, “I’ll be good”; James, boyfriend, interjects, “I just wish…[sic] That it had been different,” to which Georgia replies, “But then it wouldn’t be the same.” Platitudes undercut any sense of character development. An eight-page denouement covers a shabby and stale period of mourning: grief washes over in a quick bout of puffy eyes, then all move on. Perhaps Ms. Jacobs will flesh out the wounds of loss in her sequel, “Knit Two,” arriving November 25, but I recommend that she stick to the camaraderie of social knitting.