When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.
Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.
Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.
(From the book blurb)
Real Men Knit has a very interesting premise. We meet our protagonists on the day after Mama Joy’s funeral. This amazing woman, who adopted and raised four boys from the foster care system, passed away following an unexpected heart attack. The community is griefstricken and you can feel how loved and admired Mama Joy Strong was and how much her family and her neighbours are going to miss her. Her yarn shop was a special place full of kindness, peace and calm, a ‘sanctuary’ in the middle of hustle and bustle of Upper Manhattan. The four brothers now have to decide whether to keep the shop running or sell it. Damian is a corporate financial analyst, Lucas is a firefighter and Noah is a professional dancer. They are all busy with their careers and don’t have much time to dedicate to their mother’s business. Only Jesse, who still hasn’t found his place and passion in life, feels the shop is Mama Joy’s legacy and plays an important role in their community, and therefore they should do everything possible to keep it open.
‘In knitting there’s never a problem that can’t be fixed’
Kerry Fuller practically grew up in Strong Knits shop and Mama Joy gave her as much love and attention as she did to her sons. Kerry has worked there part-time for almost ten years. This quiet bookish girl knows everything there is to know about running a yarn shop. Kerry volunteers to help the brothers as she feels she owes it to Mama Joy’s memory. This means working closely with Jesse, who she’s been crushing on for years, but who doesn’t see her as anything but a childhood friend. An explosion in a neighbouring building makes her home uninhabitable for up to six weeks. Jesse and her brothers are happy to offer her a temporary home in their flat above the shop, which means spending even more time in close proximity to Jesse, who has a reputation for being a player. Kerry is a grown-up woman, capable of taking care of herself and deciding what she wants, but what does Jesse want and is he ready for it?
‘When you make something by hand, whatever you make takes time, patience, concentration and your energy. You should value that. So, when you give a gift you should do it with a clear intention and your pure heart’.
Kerry is strong and independent and very easy to like and care about, but there was also a bit of ‘not like the other girls’ vibe, when she is compared with Erika, Jesse’s one night-stand, and also at work with Allison. She is tired of other people deciding what is the best for her, and I totally understand and respect it, although I still have a few niggles about her going for a relationship with Jesse at that particular moment.
Jesse…He is immature and insecure and has to do a lot of growing up, but I loved the way he dedicated himself to his family business, and the way he interacted with Errol, a little boy who was bullied at school.
Whether you classify it as women’s fiction or romance, Real Men Knit is about family and community. The location and the diversity aspect of this book definitely make it stand out. My favourite supporting characters are the OKG, the Old Knitting Gang, Mama Joy’s old friends who used to come to her shop for their knitting and gossiping sessions and who have hearts of gold.
This book isn’t perfect. The beginning was info-heavy and generally there was a lot of inner monologue. Yet, I found it difficult to put down- I wanted to know more about the brothers and whether they would be able to save their family business. I hope this is the beginning of a new series, as each of them deserves their own book.
‘With his love, their love, he’d never give up. He’d just keep on knitting’.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.