Debbie Macomber's "The Shop on Blossom Street" is, as I found out, the first of a series of books set in the same Seattle neighbourhood. There is a lot of information about it (and of course, about the author herself) on her website, if you're interested.
The book centers around "A Good Yarn", a knitting shop opened by a young woman who has just overcome not one, but two bouts of cancer, and to her, this shop means an affirmation of life. She proceeds to start a knitting class at her shop for beginners, the first project being a baby blanket. By doing this, not only does she bring together three very different women who would have never met otherwise, but between the four of them, they form lasting friendships, and chains of events are set in motion that change the lives of all of them.
Sounds familiar? Yes, with the set up of bringing together people unlikely to ever meet and for them to become friends with life-changing effects is pretty much what Frances Garrood's "Basic Theology for Fallen Women" is about, a book I wrote about here and which I enjoyed very much. But while Frances has a lot more humour in her book, the drama in "Blossom Street" is more... dramatic, I'd say. Like Frances, Debbie Macomber has divided her book neatly into chapters, each of them dealing with one character at a time, taking turns. But while all of Frances' chapters are written from the character's perspective without being in the 1st person singular, in "Blossom Street", the lady who opens the shop is a 1st person narrator, and the other characters aren't. Another obvious difference is that Frances is English and Debbie Macomber American, something that of course reflects in their writing style. In American English, people look out windows and walk out doors, while I'd say they look out of windows etc. Enough of the (uncalled for) comparison, and on to the book.
When we first meet each character, their lives are not looking very good. While they come from completely different walks of live, from the very poor to the very rich, none of them are truly happy. As events unfold and friendships are starting to form, things look better - until they get, for a while, almost worse than before. There is some suspense as to what will happen next; some of the goings-on weren't much of a surprise, but I definitely had not expected what happens in chapter 46. All ends well (I think it is safe to tell you that without spoiling the book for you), and if my mother-in-law gets the next one in the series, I'll definitely be interested in reading it, too.
A lot of the book has to do with knitting, obviously. The author's website tells us that she has her own knitting shop in real life, and a brand of her own knitting yarn is available. When she talks about socks, I instantly thought of my Mum:
With the inventive new sock yarns on the market, socks were the current knitting rage. I carried a number of the European brands and loved the variety. My customers did, too. Several of the new yarns were designed to create an intricate pattern when knitted. I found it amazing to view a finished pair of socks, knowing the design had been formed by the yarn itself, and not the knitter.This is exactly the kind of socks my Mum makes - you can look at what she currently has on offer in her Etsy shop at the top left hand corner of my blog, and of course you can read about her being "a sock-knitting maniac" in her own words here.
All in all, I'd say the book is well edited, but every now and then, the use of tenses could be somewhat better. Here is an example:
Dad's not here to help me anymore, and the sense of abandonment I experienced was overwhelming. I was furious with my father for dying. I'm so angry.There is another quote about the main character's father I want to share with you, although for other reasons:
My father is the one I thank for giving me the courage to move forward with my life. His death taught me such vaulable lessons. I suppose the irony is that his death taught me about life. [...] in this last year I've learned to draw upon the inner strength he instilled in me.Almost three years ago, my husband died; and although of course the circumstances were very different and the relationship between father and daughter is not the same as between husband and wife, Steve's sudden and untimely death taught me about life, too, and I drew some valuable lessons from it.
As mentioned above, this was a pleasant read; sometimes I found it difficult to relate to the behaviour of the characters, but we all know we don't always act in a way others (let alone ourselves) find logical. Recommended for anyone who likes to relax and be entertained by a book without too much of a challenge; it doesn't matter whether you are a knitter or not :-)