I won an advance copy of Real Men Knit in a Goodreads giveaway. I love the cover and had started reading it when it disappeared. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Finally, while moving furniture, I found it wedged between the wall and my box spring thus explaining why I didn’t see it when I looked under the bed. At long last returned to me, I devoured it.
It’s a first book in a planned series and a slow burn to boot, so Jackson takes her time building the world around the characters. Jesse Strong and his three brothers were fostered and adopted by Mama Joy Strong. Mama Joy owned a building in Harlem, which was the family home and the neighborhood yarn store. When she dies suddenly, Jesse and his brothers have to decide what to do with the yarn store and how to be brothers without their mother.
Kerry has used the yarn store as a refuge since she was a kid and worked there part time while she was getting her degree. She’s hoping to transition into a full time job in her chosen field. She is also feeling adrift after Mama Joy’s death. Kerry and Jesse have both been slotted into roles – good girl and playboy – and they have to learn to see themselves and each other beyond the labels. There are bumps along the way.
One of the things I loved most about Real Men Knit was the impact grief had on the characters and the community. Mama Joy has been a cornerstone of the neighborhood and a loss like that shifts everything. It’s a fundamental change and people have a choice about how they will respond to that change – will they grow or shrink in response to loss? Jesse has to finish growing up and decide what kind of person he’s going to be. He wants to keep the store open to help the community survive encroaching gentrification, but also because he isn’t ready to let go of his mother’s legacy. Kerry has to balance her desire to help Jesse and her own desires for her future. Mama Joy’s death has created an opening for change in both of them. Kwana Jackson gives them the time to get to know each other in this new shifted reality.
I’m hoping that as the series goes on we will see more of Kerry and Jessie’s relationship. We don’t get to see nearly enough of them as a couple. Real Men Knit was a good read, but the romance between Jesse and Kerry is not the strongest part of the book. The characters are great, the community is great, and I’m taking this as the book that sets the stage for the rest of the series. I’d call this a 3.5 star read, but I am rounding up because it set the stage for a strong (sorry about the pun) series.