Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnik
5 Spot, 2006, 416 pages.
Kathleen, Sari, and Lucy meet every Sunday morning to knit, eat, and talk. They’re in their mid-20’s; they live in L.A., and they’ve got problems.
Kathleen, used to living off her wealthy TV-star sisters, has moved out on her own in a fit of anger -- with no apartment, no job, and no money. Sari, a clinician who works with autistic children, has unexpectedly found herself helping the son of a former high school heartthrob for whom she harbors a deep-seated animosity because of the way he and his friends used to treat her autistic brother. Lucy, once chubby, now svelte, but with a poor self image, works in a lab that conducts animal research and dates her attractive, callous, and arrogant boss.
The book focuses on the women’s relationships with the men in their lives. Kathleen tries out the “marry for money” angle. Sari struggles with preconceptions and assumptions, old and new. Lucy is forced to see what has been in front of her all along.
The book was an odd read. The bond among the three women was ambiguous. They seemed to have nothing in common other than their interest in knitting and, occasionally, drinking, yet they appeared to be close and to rely upon one another for emotional support. The reader is allowed only a narrow view of their lives, seeing little more than their love lives (with the exception of Sari, who we get to know a bit better). It was obvious where the story was going, and the predictability was disappointing. However, the book draws the reader in, and by the second half, I was enjoying the ride and committed to finishing it.
The title reference to knitting led to disappointment, though. Although knitting was mentioned on a regular basis, it played a minor role in the story. The author used it merely as a foil; the women could have met weekly for ceramics or stamp collecting without changing the story much.
All in all, the writing was solid, the story flowed (even if only shallowly), and the plot moved at a good speed; too bad the knitting theme only floated instead of being knitted in.