The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 5, 2010

Book review: Knitter frustrated by ‘Casting Off’

"Casting Off"</>

By Nicole Dickson

This warm read is the story of Rebecca Moray’s journey to a small island in Ireland where she plans to conduct research for a book on knitting.

Rebecca and her young daughter, Rowan, are immediately embraced by the island folk and, much to Rebecca’s surprise and dismay, are folded neatly into island society as if they have always been there.

Rebecca’s troubled past makes trusting the people on the island difficult, but she knows without a doubt that Sean Morahan—an old fisherman with a dark past of his own—is not to be trusted. In his eyes, she sees the darkness that has haunted her for more than six years.

When Rowan begins a friendship with Sean and refuses to obey when Rebecca forbids her from talking to him, Rebecca and Sean must begin the journey to face the demons in their past in order to do what’s best for Rowan.

Intertwined with Rebecca’s and Sean’s stories are delightful characters full of warm charm and humor, a sweet love interest, and knitting. Lots and lots of knitting.

It was the knitting (coupled with a friend’s recommendation) that convinced me to read Casting Off. Each fisherman on the island has a sweater knitted in his own, unique pattern and each pattern tells the story of his past and the hope for his future. It’s these sweaters that Rebecca wants to study for her book.

Dickson’s description of the community and the nice pacing of the story make this a satisfying read. By the end, I was planning ways to represent the people I love in my knitting and I wanted to find Rebecca’s Irish island so I could curl up in it like a warm blanket.

The Joplin Public Library owns this book in both print form and on CD. Most of the time, a book is just as good in either format, but I am quite thankful that I listened to this one.

The names Dickson chose to give her Irish characters are very authentic, but reading them would have driven me crazy. “Fionn” is pronounced “Finn” and “Siobhan” is pronounced “Sha-vawn.” I would never have been able to sound them out and the names are too beautiful to not know how to say.

When I looked at the print version of "Casting Off," I was highly disappointed that Dickson didn’t include knitting patterns or pictures. Each chapter begins with a definition of a different knitting stitch or technique that is fairly detailed, but without a picture or a pattern for creating it, they are hard to visualize.

I was also disappointed that Dickson didn’t include sources for her research. Along with each definition, Dickson includes a symbolic meaning for the stitch or technique described. I assume that Dickson has done research on knitting and has a source for each meaning, but she doesn’t share those sources with her readers.

I love the idea of symbolism in knitted works and that each pattern tells a story, but I would love to know if the symbolism that Dickson assigns have any basis in the real world. These things don’t detract from the story, but frustrated me as a knitter.

This is a good book for readers who like gentle stories based in reality with a little drama, a little romance and a look into another culture. (“Gentle” means that the drama isn’t Lifetime Movie drama and the romance won’t make anyone blush.)

Cari Boatright Rérat is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.