Oddly enough, both of this month’s authors hail from Oneonta, N.Y. In another peculiar coincidence, both books are published by Simon & Schuster. I am not promulgating a conspiracy theory; serendipity sometimes works in mysterious ways!
Perhaps, reflecting the aging of the American population, novels featuring senile dementia/Alzheimer’s disease are becoming popular. Last year’s Still Alice by Lisa Genova was an area book group favorite (the protagonist was a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s), and I expect Lost by Alice Lichtenstein will appeal to the same crowd. The plot revolves around Christopher, a 69-year old man with Alzheimer’s, who has wandered away from his home in frigid weather. Susan, his wife, feels guilty for leaving him alone while she went on a short walk. Jeff, a man whose young wife just left him, is coordinating the search and rescue efforts; and Corey, a mute 11-year old accused of arson, has seen a man lying in the woods, but is too frightened of being blamed to let anyone know. As the back stories of the three characters emerge, Lichtenstein does an admirable job of showing how love, responsibility, and sorrow can both bind people together and tear them apart. There are no easy resolutions in this beautifully written novel, but that just gives the careful reader more to ponder at its conclusion.
Knitting is undergoing something of a renaissance recently; perhaps, another sign of the aging of the American population? (Only kidding–knitting is rising in popularity especially among young women, who are using the power of the Internet to trade patterns, learn techniques, and share stories.)
In any case, Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini describes a tale of one woman’s attempt to knit an authentic Alice Starmore designed Fair Isle sweater over the course of a year. Alice Starmore is revered among knitters for her famously complicated (and thus difficult) patterns. Adding to the challenge, her earlier pattern books have gone out of print, and her favored brand and colors of yarn are likewise not readily available. Despite this, Martini is determined to proceed with the project. By dividing the book into monthly chapters, the reader is updated on her efforts to obtain the pattern, her wool search, and her efforts teaching herself the technique necessary for knitting a Fair Isle sweater. Reading about what she had to do before beginning to knit the actual sweater dissuaded me from ever trying this at home. Perhaps veteran knitters would consider it a challenge, comparing Mount Everest to mountain climbers. The actual knitting isn’t covered in much detail, but there are many digressions: interviews with famous knitters, the importance of the blogosphere in the popularity of knitting, and many explanations for why knitters feel compelled to fiddle with pointy sticks and yarn to make hats, scarves, and sweaters. As a novice knitter, I found Martini’s quest fascinating, even if I didn’t want to attempt it myself. Adrienne Martini will be in town Sunday, March 21 attending the annual “Knit In” at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy and reading from her book. Feel free to drop by, knit, and listen!
Susan Taylor has been in the book business since 1982.