Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Book 36 of 2013: The Shop on Blossom Street

A few years ago my Mum-in-Law leant me a couple of books which she thought might appeal to me. She had promised a friend that she could borrow them but knew I could read them quickly so let me have them for a week before they needed to be sent away. The first of these was set in a little cafe someplace and was your standard sort of chicklit tale; I don’t remember much about it aside from the fact that at the very end of the book was a recipe for one of the cakes sold in the cafe.

The second book was The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber; my Mum-in-Law thought it would appeal to me because it’s set in a wool shop and at the time I was just starting to get into knitting. I read the first few chapters but struggled to get into it and decided to give it back so it could be sent away to my Mum-in-Law’s friend.

And then back in June, as I was getting completely sucked into my knitting obsession, I mentioned that when I tried searching for knitting books on the library system it kept on giving chicklit books featuring knitting, rather than pattern books (which was what I was actually looking for). I mentioned one name that kept on showing up – Debbie Macomber and my Mum-in-Law announced that she had one of her books. So I borrowed it to give it another try and this time really enjoyed it.

The story is told from four different perspectives; Lydia who owns the shop narrates her chapters in a first-person point-of-view; the other three chapters follow Carol, Jacqueline and Alix and are told from a third-person point-of-view. I remembered that this was what threw me out of the story the first time I tried reading it because I just didn’t get on with the switching POVs. This time I adapted to it much better and after the initial switch I got into it much easier.

Lydia has survived brain cancer twice and as a result doesn’t believe in love, she’s decided that if the cancer comes back a third time she won’t fight it and doesn’t want to hurt anyone else by her decision. Her one refuge when she was sick was knitting because even when she was too ill to do more than a single row, that was an achievement for her. The story begins with her deciding to open a wool shop and start a knitting group. The other three women in the story are the first people who join her knitting class.

Jacqueline is a wealthy woman who is annoyed with her husband’s choice of wife, a young woman from the South named Tammie Lee. Jacqueline always dreamed of the sort of girl her son would marry and Tammie Lee is not that. She struggles to disguise her dislike of her daughter-in-law but when she finds out that she is going to be a grandmother she decides to join the knitting class to knit a baby blanket in an attempt to make an effort to get along with her son.

Carol is in the midst of IVF treatment, after having had two failed attempts she and her husband, Doug, are preparing to start their third and final attempt. Desperate to believe that this time it’ll work Carol decides to join the knitting group to make a baby blanket for the baby that she is hoping to conceive.

And finally there’s Alix who has to do community work as part of the conditions of her bail after being caught with her friend’s drugs. She’s impoverished and has had a very tough upbringing but is actually softer than she appears on the outside. She is Jacqueline’s polar opposite but joins the group with the intention of making blankets for Project Linus for her community work.

My least favourite character to read from probably Jacqueline, at first, though as her attitude changed through the book, so did mine. I quite liked the other three and I really felt like I could relate to Carol, though as the story went on I kind of struggled to find her story believable. Following her third IVF attempt she goes out and buys a full nursery worth of furniture, there’s being optimistic and there’s being optimistic and I found it hard to believe that anyone undergoing fertility treatment would do that. This is followed by an adoption thread which while it gives the story a happy ending, I couldn’t believe that would happen either. I do have to admit though the fact that Carol’s husband is called Doug made the ER fan in me smile.

Each of Lydia’s chapters began with a quote about knitting and I really enjoyed that. One of them was “With a little practice and patience, our hands learn to knit, then our minds are free to enjoy the process. – Bev Galeskas, Fiber Trends” which is so true. That’s what I love about knitting, I can just sit back and watch TV or read a book and let my fingers take care of the doll or scarf or hat that I’m making. It was nice to read quotes about knitting and think, ‘hey, that’s so true’.

It was rather a predictable story, but I find that tends to be the case with chick-lit type books. That’s what’s kind of fun about them. You’re not under any illusions about what the outcome is going to be, people will wind up more or less happy by the end of them. I knew what was wrong with Laurel, I knew who Alix and Lydia were going to end up with, I figured out what was going to happen to Doug and Carol (even though I didn’t really like the way it happened, I would’ve preferred a surprise natural pregnancy but then again I suppose that’s just the infertile in me who dreams of that herself), and I guessed what was going to happen with Jacqueline as well. The fact is that on the whole it was pretty well written and I did enjoy the ups and downs of the story. And I really struggled to put it down.

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