Stephanie's Reviews > Naomi's Wish

Naomi's Wish by Rachael Herron
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Jun 02, 12

bookshelves: romance
Read in June, 2012

2.5 stars

This review originally appeared at www.readinasinglesitting.com.

Naomi’s Wish represents the third time this year I’ve been tricked by a cover that is completely at odds with the contents of a book. The cover of Rachael Herron’s latest may suggest a rural romance novel full of rough-housin’ cowboys, farmin’, and plenty o’ big hats and them there stompin’ boots, but think again! Though it is indeed set in a country town, which is apparently enough to classify something as ru-ro these days, this book is all about lurve ‘n’ knitting. Yes, we’re talking about a town obsessed with purl, y’all. The American cover and title, Wishes and Stitches: a Cypress Hollow Yarn, portray this neatly enough, although it may underemphasise the romance element, but the Australian one misses the mark entirely, and I don’t doubt that this obvious misrepresentation affected my enjoyment of the book.

Naomi Fontaine is Cypress Hollow’s doctor–the town’s only doctor since her business partner has found that he quite likes taking sabbaticals–and she’s finding it tough. It’s not that she’s not good at her job, as she’s a dedicated practitioner who’s never put a foot wrong, but it’s that her top-notch bedside manner doesn’t extend beyond the examining room. Naomi makes your average computer programmer look like a social butterfly. But Naomi longs for acceptance, and every time she sits down to work on her wedding shawl project, she can’t help but wonder whether she should out herself as a fellow knitter to the members of this, er, tight-knit community.

Enter Rig (yes, Rig), the new doctor in town. Not only does Rig have plans to buy out Naomi’s business partner’s half of the clinic, but he has designs on Naomi, too. Although, of course, he doesn’t intend to buy her. But where Naomi is utterly socially inept, Rig specialises in friendly: within a few days he’s the best buddy of half the town. But Naomi’s focused on her career and on living up to her dead father’s expectations of what makes for a good doctor–which doesn’t include making out with a fellow doctor in the window of the clinic. And tensions only mount when Naomi’s mischief-making sister and her mother show up–both unannounced, and both with news of their own. With all this going on, how’s Naomi going to wrestle her way into a knitting circle?

Naomi’s Wish is a prompt and zippy read full of the typical quaint and quirky small-town characters one expects from a novel set in the US south. But other than that it’s a little unsure as to its genre: it features many of the romance tropes, but also astonishing amounts of knitting. A quick google informs me that this is actually the third in a knitting-theme trilogy, but while I’m used to cozy mysteries being filled with hobbyists stitching and scrapbooking and so on, it feels very odd indeed to read about a hero and heroine alternating between dropping stitches and dropping pants. It’s not Naomi’s knitting habit that’s so odd, exactly, it’s that the entire town apparently sits about knitting. Including the blokey farmers. They go to social events and knit! Their barbecues are all about knitting!

As you can see, I’m quite perturbed by this knitting mania.

Bizarre knitting obsession aside, I found the novel a little difficult to get in to, in part because Naomi’s character, being so introverted, is hard to relate to. Her awkwardness makes for a number of scenes in which she’s entirely passive, and there are also a few that rose my hackles a little, including one where she disbelievingly and utterly insensitively outs her assistant as gay. I’m sure that this scene isn’t meant to come across as intolerant, but it can’t help but do so, and this made me recoil a little more from Naomi’s character–fortunately the slight twist at the end of the novel helps atone for this.

In all, I felt myself a little bamboozled by the novel: it’s sweet and saccharine at times (knitting, people!), and then there’s all sorts of raunchy naughtiness going on. The doctor espouses progressive views about women’s bodies and their right to choose, yet comes across at times as a homophobe. Add in a tough-to-believe secondary romance, and I felt as though I needed a winch to suspend my belief.

Still, I can’t help but wonder how much of my reaction is based on the fact that I believed I was sitting down to read something entirely different from what I eventually got. Had I picked up a book with the US cover and title, I might have been quite ready for all that stitching and casting (albeit maybe not the bedroom shenanigans).
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