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Thursday, March 17, 2011

casting off...a book review

in honor of st. paddy's day, i give you a book review about ireland, ganseys, forgiveness and love.  grab yourself a green beer and snuggle up with this book!

casting off by nicole r. dickson sat on my bookshelf for many months.  i bought it at KDO last fall from the mannings.  one evening i found myself at a loss for reading (!!!) and found the book.  i'm so glad i did!

casting off tells the story of rebecca, a teacher and fiber artist, who receives a grant to study aran "ganseys" in ireland.  she and her young daughter, rowan, travel to the small island where her best friend sharon lives.  rebecca looks forward to her new work, as a way of getting away from her painful past.  rebecca was abused both physically and emotionally by rowan's father.  sharon invites her to the island, so small that it only has one car, assuring her that she and her daughter will be completely safe there.

life on "the island" is peaceful and simple.  the island residents know rebecca from sharon's stories and incorporate her into their lives.  rebecca establishes home for herself and rowan in a small guest cottage.  her daughter befriends an elderly fisherman, sean morahan.  sean battles demons from his past, with most residents holding him at arm's length.  rebecca learns of sean's past and forbids her daughter from interaction with the man.  sean, on the other hand, is initially annoyed by the child, but eventually warms up to her.  rowan enjoys learning about the island's traditions from sean, especially the tunes sean teaches her on her whistle.

sharon is not on the island when rebecca arrives - she is actually on the mainland, awaiting the birth of her child after a high risk pregnancy.  rebecca becomes acquainted with sharon's childhood friend, fionn.  fionn, aware of rebecca's past and painful relationship, tries to melt her frosty demeanor with his charm and wit.  rebecca is eager to start her research.  the residents, however, teach their spinning and knitting techniques at their pace, sometimes frustrating her.

in the end, a near tragedy changes rebecca's opinion of sean.  at the same time, the tragedy allows sean to finally forgive himself and purge his demons.  rebecca finally realizes that she is in a safe place and that she can let go of the past.  in doing so, she opens herself to love and a new life for not only herself but rowan as well.

this book was a delightful read.  normally i'll devour a book in a couple of days.  it took me a couple of weeks to read casting off, becos i relished the surprises within.  i loved imagining the scenery of the island, the bumpy roads, the lush greenness, the wind off the sea, the cozy cottages with their peat fires.  if anything, it made me want to book a flight to island and visit the land of my ancestors. i had fun trying to pronounce the irish names.  i love the name siobian - it was a name i liked when we were pregnant - but it would have been a bit of a tongue twister for our child (siobian shearer siobian shearer siobian shearer).

each chapter was prefaced with an epigraph from a chapter of a book called a binding love.  the book, written by one of the characters in the book, told the history of the island, both the people and the knitting patterns.  i hope that ms. dickson expands on a binding love, as it sounds really delightful.

the few criticisms i have about casting off is that there was no free pattern nor recipe in the back of the book.  a small, stupid criticism, but i was hoping that a book that was supposed to be about ganseys, would have had a gansey pattern in it.  if not a sweater, then maybe a hat or a scarf.  foodwise, the irish have many delish dishes - maybe a recipe for bangers and mash, or at least rebecca's favorite american barbecued chicken or famous potato salad.

rebecca's painful past took a long time to be revealed.  i understand why the author stretched out the story line - it heightens the suspense - i just wanted to find out what happened to rebecca's ex.  i suppose i could have flipped through the chapters and found out, but i didn't.

casting off is a story about facing one's past and learning to forgive and move forward in life.  it's about finding a safe place and unconditional kindness and love.  it's about opening yourself up to opportunity, despite pain and uncertainty.

i give casting off **** out of *****

1 comment:

  1. I'm in the midst of reading this book right now too! Isn't it excellent? It's definitely one I will suggest to friends, even non-knitters!


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