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Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry Hardcover – April, 2000
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In an age when "keeping up with the Joneses" refers not only to material riches but also to a whirlwind of activities, author Katrina Kenison humbly asks, "Just whose standards am I living by, anyway?" Kenison, mother of two sons and former annual editor of The Best American Short Stories anthology since 1990, understands the hectic agendas, short tempers, and full-time careers today's families endure. But she has also learned to limit the chaos. The title comes from Kenison's youngest son, Jack, cuddled up with mom one quiet afternoon as she crochets mitten strings. He holds up a long piece of yarn and proclaims, "I'm knitting a mitten string for God"--a sweet phrase, but a bit misleading. Despite a sprinkling of minor religious references, the larger focus of Kenison's beautifully written first book lies in living with care and awareness. Chapters with titles like "Grace," "Healing," "Spirit," and "Breathing" offer soothing pictures of a family life that honors patience, imagination, and Sundays without plans. Kenison weaves together personal stories and wisdom from such philosophers as Thoreau and Anne Morrow Lindbergh; the graceful resulting tapestry shows how peace and simplicity can be savored in a world hell-bent on pushing people to accomplish more, own more, and do it all as quickly as possible. --Liane Thomas
From Publishers Weekly
This heartfelt collection of essays will strike a chord with any mother whose response to the "arrythmic" pace of modern life is a yearning to "shut the door, stop the noise, and tune in to our own inner lives." Drawing on hard-won insights from her own struggle to achieve balance (she gave up a successful career in book publishing to work from home and raise her two young sons) and to infuse her family's days with meaning, Kenison's richly anecdotal musings on such diverse topics as "peace," "simplicity," "play," "Sabbath" and "discipline" resonate with honesty and wisdom. Though this is not a religious book in the traditional sense, Kenison's contemplations are suffused with a spirituality that thrives on connecting with others and with nature and finding the sacred in the everyday. Rendering an intimate portrait of family life with grace and a lively sense of humor, Kenison, who for the past 10 years has edited The Best American Short Stories, is most impassioned and enlightening when she shares "moments in which we were bathed in grace, moments when we were astonished by the simple joy of our togetherness." Though each essay ends with a pat homily, some of which are jarringly treacly ("Someplace deep within me, I carry every story I have ever heard, every story I have ever lived, every story I will ever need"), readers will be left feeling refreshed and encouraged by the generosity of spirit that prompted these thoughtful reflections. (Apr.) Cahners Business Information.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
This book energized me to make several changes in my own life. Part of my motivation for homeschooling this year was a desire to have a more conscious, contemplative, and purposeful life rather than a frantic-mad-dashing here and there life.
In fact, as the holidays approach, many of my friends are feeling "swamped", "overwhelmed", "stressed" - feelings I remember all too well from previous years. While I still have my moments, overall I am much less stressed than last year. The overall tenor of the holidays is much happier and calmer. I have done my best to pare the holidays down to the essentials, to keep things simple and personal, rather than grandly extravagant. Extravagance has its place, but when children are young, I think simplicity makes so much more sense.
I loved this book so much I chose it for my book club of busy suburban SAHMs. I was quite surprised to find only two (out of nine) loved it as I did! Three thought the book had "some good ideas", but they clearly didn't connect with the author.
The other four were quite negative about Mitten Strings. They felt it was too preachy and perfect and Pollyanna-ish, that "real" people couldn't live like the Kenisons without lots of money. But it's not a financial lifestyle she is talking about, it's an internal one, it is simply making a conscious effort to notice, appreciate, prioritize and streamline.
In trying to figure out the mixed response to this book in my book club, I came up with a couple of ideas. I think the crux of liking the book has to do with the following:
First, it depends on whether you are at a point in your life where you actually consider rushing madly to be a negative thing, rather than proof you are productive. Some people feel empowered and energized by rushing and being busy!
Second, it depends on how contemplative you are feeling when you read the book. The more contemplative you feel, the more likely you might enjoy the book.
Finally, it depends on whether you enjoy visual and poetic language. The author writes with a heartfelt, genuine sentimentality that, while I enjoyed it tremendously, can apparently be off-putting to people with more pragmatic sensibilities.
One reviewer said they would not give this book to a parent of an autistic child, or one with Down's Syndrome. I actually think this book has considerable merit for families with special needs children - the key is knowing WHEN to give the book. I have a child who was diagnosed with autism at 3, and when he was younger and we were rushing around madly from therapy to therapy, ransacking our home to make it an engaging learning environment, etc..., I would not have been in the frame of mind to appreciate it.
In fact, according to my three criteria above: the mad rushing was proof I was doing everything I could to help him; who has time to be contemplative when you are trying to save your child from autism; and poetic musings about the wonderful lives of families with typically developing children would have been quite upsetting.
NOW I see things differently. I think the ideas in the book have even MORE relevance for children with special needs, who often thrive in calm, centered environments. I think children with special needs deserve to have their progress, however slow or small, deeply savored and appreciated.
Well anyway. This is not a book that EVERYONE is necessarily going to love, in spite of the steady parade of 5 star reviews. Nevertheless, I join the parade and give this book 5 stars based on my own incredibly positive experience reading it.
There are times, however, when I wondered what it must be like to live in her perfect household, where the TV is permanently off and the parents and children play their musical instruments together for family entertainment. And, perhaps I'm a little overly-sensitive, but at the very end, I perceived a bit of working-mom prejudice (though the author admits to working part-time, she is able to work out of her home during the hours her children are in school). For the most part, however, I found this book sweet without being too precious (despite the rather cutesy title) and I do plan to purchase gift copies for friends.