Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson
Academic Rebecca Moray receives a grant to do study both the history of Aran sweaters and the techniques and stories behind them. Her best friend Sharon grew up on the island* and Rebecca has been dreaming of this research trip for years. She also hopes that three months away will help ground her 6-year-old daughter Rowan, whose childhood has been marred by the loss of her father and frequent moves made necessary by Rebecca's career.
As soon as she and Rowan step off the dock, Rebecca begins to realize that she'll be getting more than she bargained from this trip. Everyone greets her and Rowan by name, treating them like long-lost relatives, but they all have very clear ideas about what Rebecca should be doing with her time. Amid all the friendly interference, the only cold reception comes from Sean Morahan, an enigmatic and troubled old man.
Casting Off is the story of Rebecca's research trip, of how the people of the island changed both Rebecca and her daughter, and how the Morays, in turn, changed them.
I originally wanted to read Casting Off because it is a knitting novel. I'm happy to report that it was much better that I expected to be. The story has real meat, the characters are sympathetic, the setting is bucolic and well-described, the knitting tidbits are interesting (the author even has a blog dedicated to the stitches featured in the novel), and the nothing that happens in the course of the novel is too terribly implausible.
I'm loaning my copy to a friend, but after that I think I'll keep it around for a while because I'm pretty sure that I'll want to re-read it.
* Casting Off is set on an unspecified Aran isle.