Note: This is not about a knitting book! Knitting content will resume after this! Probably. My track record lately isn’t so good…
I want to take a little break from my usual knitting fare to talk about my friend Carrie Snyder‘s new book. I hope I can do it justice – I loved it, and I hope I can increase its exposure to my knitty friends.
Carrie recently published a book, her second, called The Juliet Stories A novel-in-stories, it’s a collection of short stories tied together through the main character, Juliet Friesen. The first half or so of the book takes place during Juliet’s childhood, when her family goes to Nicaragua to protest the American involvement in the post-revolutionary war there, and the second half features Juliet as a young adult, after her family returns to North America.
I have to say, I wasn’t sure at first how to approach this book – I’m not generally a lover of short stories. I recognize that they are meant to show you a snapshot in time, rather than tell a whole story, but I guess something about the geek in me needs a plot. Knowing that these were all short stories, I intended to read just one per day. Since I knew it wouldn’t read like a novel, I would just go slowly, one story at a time, and leave some space in between. However, I was surprised – I was hooked from the beginning. The fact that the stories all tie together gives me that sense of narrative, while at the same time giving me little snapshots of Juliet’s life. I ended up reading the whole thing in a few days rather than the couple of weeks it would have taken me if I’d stuck to plan A.
Carrie’s forte is creating mood. She sets a tone in her stories, and I can feel it for a long time after I’ve put the book down. I felt this most at the beginning, during Juliet’s childhood. Those stories, told from the point of view of a child, convey a sense of timelessness. A world full of conflict and turmoil, both external to her family bubble and within it, which Juliet is trying understand. Time seems to stretch on. The world is just happening around her, and she’s navigating through it. As Juliet gets older, the stories happen at a faster pace, the world around comes into sharper focus and time seems to move more quickly. This rings true – even though my childhood was nothing like Juliet’s, that is how I remember it – a blur in which bits memories stand out in sharp focus.
The high point of the book for me was one particular story, The Four Corners of a House, near the middle, where the narrative style takes a detour and other voices join Juliet’s for a little bit. This chapter is pivotal, marking a turning point for the Friesens. It left me heartbroken. And a little in awe.
I hope you have the opportunity to read it – and I look forward to seeing more of Carrie’s writing soon!