Sunday, July 01, 2007

Back on Blossom Street

I can’t spend as much time reading as I would like. So most of my reading is non-fiction, work-related or spiritual. I listen to novels (as well as non-fiction and biography genres) on my iPod while commuting and traveling, and as a bedtime treat as I’m drifting off. (It reminds me of my Dad reading bedtime stories when I was little.)

I was given the opportunity to review Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. I was familiar with her name, and knew that she categorizes herself as a romance writer, but had never read or listened to her work. As I looked for information on the book, I discovered that it is the third in a series of “knitting novels” by the author who has written 120 books with several scheduled for release in the upcoming months.

I’m not a big “romance” reader. But I do enjoy reading and listening to stories about women and their friendships, relationships, interactions and lives. I’m a great fan of Anne Rivers Siddons, who I wouldn’t categorize as a “romance” writer. I’ve discovered that the genre has expanded and that current novels don’t follow the traditional patterns of romances. (There are no Fabios in these books!)

Not having read The Shop on Blossom Street and A Good Yarn, the previous two books in the series, I ordered them for my iPod, and listened to them abridged, which were the only versions available (not a great fan of "abridged" but you take what you can get...). I became familiar with the basic characters and back-stories. You don’t have to read these first, because Debbie (may I call you Debbie?) brings you up to speed in the current book; however I think the previous books enrichen the story, and they’re fun, quick "reads."

Back on Blossom Street is the tale of a group of women and their friends and families. Lydia owns the shop “A Good Yarn”; her sister Margaret helps run the store, Alix- introduced in the previous books, is a young woman with a troubled past who has found her way (and a good man); Susannah owns a flower shop, "Susannah’s Garden", and hires Collette, a rather mysterious newcomer to town who has experienced tragedy and disappointment and has challenges to face. The focus drawing the story and characters together is the local yarn shop, where they gather for class to knit “prayer shawls,” each with a specific reason for knitting hers. The story progresses with crises, conflicts and resolutions—and through it all, knitting and the friendship of the knitters maintains the thread. (Yes, you may laugh weakly.) Characters from the previous two books are reintroduced, giving promise of new books in the series to come.

There are a couple of bonuses in the book. Debbie includes actual prayer shawl knitting patterns for beginning and more advanced knitters. What an unexpected pleasure! I plan to knit Alix's prayer shawl which is a lacy, intermediate pattern. (Hmmm-- I seem to remember purchasing some forest green laceweight at MS&W... Hmmmm)

Reading this book, and listening to its predecessors brings to mind my own “LYSs” in my two homes—Alexandria and Blacksburg. The remarkable women I’ve met in these wonderful oases of caring and creativity, with their myriad life stories and experiences are in themselves rich novels-in-waiting. (Probably won’t happen—I don’t have Debbie’s gift. So just read my blog and follow the links to theirs.)

Is Back to Blossom Street “GREAT literature” in contention for the GREAT American novel?” You know the answer.

Is it GREAT fun, a GREAT story of women’s friendship and a GREAT beach or bathtub read? It surely is.

Will I continue to follow the women of “The Shop?” You Betcha.

Debbie just released another new book. The title? Susannah’s Garden. Sound familiar?


That’s the sound of me allowing myself to be sucked into another series.

And looking forward to it!


Loren said...

I've never read any of those books, maybe I should give them a shot. I read Friday Night Knitting Club and really liked it. I'm a big fan of strictly for fun reading, especially in the summer!

Rosemary said...

Thanks for the review. I enjoyed the first two as quick travel reads on recent business trips. If you want to read the unabridged stories, let me know. You are welcome to my copies.