Sunday, July 13, 2008

a sweet story from Sweetgum

I dare you not to fall in love with these characters in the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society. I read the first few pages, and I was drawn into the small town drama of the lives of the women in the Knit Lit Society. First of all, it is run by Eugenia, a dream job!

When these ladies get together once a month for their Knit Lit Society meetings, they talk about a book that they have all been reading, and they share (show and tell style) what they've been knitting. And I love the information about knitting...when one of the ladies was talking about felting something she had made, I knew what she meant, because of the awesome green and purple felted purse I won from Smellyann on her blog. And yes, it's even more beautiful IRL than it is in the picture. Smellyann is such a talented knitter. (Is that what you call someone who knits? Not a knitstress? No, that's a seamstress. Hello. Well, she's one of those, too. She's multitalented.)

But back to the story, Eugenia seemed like such a stuffed shirt at first, and I got the impression that the other ladies just came to the society because she insisted and they were too polite to say no. A recipe for frustration, for sure. But the lives of the characters kept unfolding, and I kept finding out more information about how each of them was connected to the others.

It kept on getting more interesting. Even though the book deals with some difficult life situations, it did so in a way that wasn't in-my-face obnoxious, you know? I got the point without the book being so graphic that I didn't want to read it. It's very tastefully written, but still very real.

Okay, then Eugenia throws a teenager, Hannah, into the mix. Hannah is on the verge of getting into trouble, and she has a disturbing home life. Hannah messed up, and Eugenia insists that Hannah participate in the group as "payment" for her misdeed. The dynamics of the group change a little, and the truth starts spilling out in Sweetgum.

Mmmm mmm mmm. This was the point where I couldn't put it down. I had to find out why Esther was so cold, and why she had such a grudge against her sister Ruth. And I wanted to read more about Merry's 'situation' and her resentful teenage daughter. And how about that new pastor? How did he fit into the mix?

And I really can't say a whole lot more without spoiling the story, but if you like reading about literature, and knitting, and will love this one.

If you want this book for yourself, you just have to leave a comment on this post. I'll do a drawing in a few days. Okay, probably on Friday. But get your comment in quick before I do it!

Here are some comments from Beth Patillo, the author:

Q&A with Beth Pattillo, author of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

Q. What was your inspiration behind The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society?

The book was inspired by the knitting group at my church. I loved the way a group of diverse women, from their teens to retirement age, bonded over knitting and prayer. I think book clubs experience a similar phenomenon. Something about knitting or reading together really helps to create authentic community. One of the things I enjoyed most about writing this book was looking at the world from such different points of view. Each of the women in the novel is unique. And the variety of ages and life experiences kept things interesting.

Q. In the book, troubled teen Hannah Simmons has seen her share of neglect and abuse before meeting the ladies of the Knit Lit Society. Do you see many teens like Hannah in the course of your work as an ordained minister? If so, what is your philosophy in helping them find healing?

Unfortunately, I’ve met a number of teens over the years that were neglected by their parents. I’m a strong believer in youth ministry because I know it can provide guidance and care that’s often missing in a teenager’s home. In the novel, Hannah happens to be poor, but I’ve found that income level, however high or low, doesn’t always correlate to the quality of parenting. The love and attention of a youth minister and/or youth sponsor can often keep a teen from making bad choices with disastrous consequences. Teenagers need to feel competent and valued. A strong youth ministry provides an opportunity for young people to find their spiritual gifts and use them. It also makes God’s love tangible and powerful.

Q. Since not every town has a Knit Lit Society, what would your advice be to anyone who has a "Hannah" in their life or knows of a teen in a similar situation?

Most teens need someone to listen to them without judgment or agenda. Mentoring, serving as a youth sponsor, teaching Sunday school and Bible study – these are all great ways to reach out to teenagers. As a minister, in a particular situation, I have to assess whether a teenager needs the help of social services in addition to the love and care of a church family. All ministers are required by law to report suspected abuse. Neglect, though, can be a bit trickier. Ideally, a minister can reach out to the parents as well as the teen to try and help the family become more functional and caring. I always appreciated my church members letting me know if they thought a particular teenager needed help. I think it’s better to get involved and ultimately find that the situation wasn’t as serious as you thought than to ignore something until a crisis occurs.

Q. Do you knit in your spare time?

I love to knit! I’m into hand-tied yarn right now, taking eight or nine different yarns in a particular color palette and tying 2-3 yard sections end to end. The result is wonderfully shaggy scarves or shawls that have real depth of color and texture. (I was inspired by the owner of The Shaggy Sheep in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas – a terrific yarn store!) I’m afraid I have numerous unfinished projects around the house, but one day, I hope to finish them all.

Q. You spent seven years waiting to publish your first book and now The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is your fourth book. What advice do you have for novice or aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers have to persevere. For that matter, so do published authors. The publishing industry is a rejection-based business. Work hard, acquire a thick skin, be open to good criticism, and revise, revise, revise. As writers, we take our work personally, but the publishing industry doesn’t. Rejection is a business decision, not a critique of our value as human beings!

My other piece of advice is to write every day, even if it’s only a small amount. I run an email loop called Club 100 For Writers. The challenge is to write 100 words a day for 100 days. I’ve seen this practice transform people’s lives. Instructions for joining the group are on my website,

If you made it this far, what's a few more seconds? Take a shot, leave a comment, maybe win a book!


Daisy in the sun said...

Sounds like a great book. I love books about books.

River's Edge said...

Great review! You MADE me want to rush out and buy the book and read it next week end. I love her take on ministering to teens!

fortyb4forty said...

The book looks interesting.

Smilingsal said...

I would love to win the book? Am I too late? Thank you for the opportunity.

daisy said...

P.S. Oh, yes, AND I have it on good authority that she is writing a sequel to this one. Very exciting. Just had to throw that in there.

I can hardly wait til Friday to do the drawing because I want somebody else to be able to enjoy this one, too!

Alix said...

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you managed to find The Truth about Forever, it is excellent.

Great review, it's not the type of book I normally read but your enthusiasm make me want to check it out.