Notified by my friend Augusta Scattergood that Hattiesburg, Mississippi is mentioned in the first sentence of A Tangle of Knots, it went on my must-read list.
If you’re the kind of reader who skips prologues, don’t. You’ll miss Hattiesburg since this is the only time it is mentioned. You’ll also miss clues to the tangle of mystery knots that snarl through the book. Pay close attention to things that seem unimportant. They are not. Pay particular attention to the quote, “Talent is only rewarding if you wield it well,” and to the fact that Talent is always capitalized. It almost becomes a character in this gnarled story.
Mysteries (knots) abound. The Asher family includes Will who keeps disappearing, Zane on the verge of delinquency, Marigold who can’t find her Talent in spite of being dependable and normal, and Mrs. Asher hiding a secret in plain sight. Miss Mallory with a Talent for matching children to adoptive parents often matches them before they get settled into her home. V, with her lack of speech following a stroke, surely fits in somewhere. Constant tension and urgency plays between those with Talent and those who are Fair. Then Toby makes runs to the airport for luggage with contents to be sold by the Owner of the Emporium, with the Owner having a remarkable propensity for powder blue St. Anthony’s suitcases. The man in the gray suit with trails of knotted rope beneath his jacket keeps turning up, and Mrs. Asher’s hairpin (beige, cracked, knobby, as wide as a rib of celery, and as long as a pencil) takes turns being there and not there. And through it all, Cady, with her Talent for knowing the exact cake for each person, wins bake-offs and hopes that one day the special Adoption Day celebration will be hers.
Cady’s cake recipes, sandwiched between chapters, are a bonus.
Lisa Graff wields her Talent well and comes up with quite the tangle of knots which seem to snarl more and more until she pulls the right one and lays out a beautiful rope that has been there from beginning to end. It’s a story well worth a read even if you are not privileged to live in Hattiesburg.
P. S. Shortly after I read the book and wrote this blog, A Tangle of Knots appeared on the long list for the National Book Award. I wasn’t the only one who liked it!