Love is the Thread: A Knitting Friendship by Dr. Leslie Moïse

How do people enter our lives? What happens after they leave us? And in what way are our journeys with those people scrambled around, like the single piece of yarn that becomes intricately woven to make an object? In Love is the Thread: A Knitting Friendship by Dr. Leslie Moïse, the author writes passionately and meaningfully about Kristine, who was for months a complete stranger to the author. If Dr. Moïse’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she recently appeared in a Meet the Writer feature at Grab the Lapels.

Arriving in Maryland after fleeing Kentucky, Moïse is terrified. She’s escaped a partner who had threatened that if she left him, he would kill her. Every car passing by, ever outside sound, sends Moïse into a panic, despite having sheltered with trusted people: her cousin and the cousin’s kind husband.

Sensing something needs to be done to help Moïse regain her sense of independence, the cousin suggests helping another woman. Kristine, we are told, has bipolar disorder, which can be difficult to manage, sending her into a depressed state that can last months or years. So, the community steps up and leaves food outside her apartment, as she feels she cannot open the door. Given a task about which she feels hesitant and even frightened, Moïse makes a dish and leaves it for Kristine, who later calls to say she ate all of it. Over four months, Moïse and Kristine talk on the phone about recipes, favorite meals and places, how close their birthdays are. Eventually, they meet:

Kristine swept into Sadhya’s house, dark-haired and more than six feet tall. She weighed more than three hundred pounds, and moved with the powerful grace of the long distance ocean swimmer she once had been. After months saturated in the warmth of her voice, the compassion of her spirit, I knew I’d never met anyone so lovely.

The story of Kristine and Dr. Moïse’s friendship isn’t straightforward, and the author explains why. Love is the Thread was written a year after Kristine’s death from cancer and structured in the way that Moïse’s memories returned. Thus, the result is a weaving of recollections about trips to the ocean, learning to knit and having the patience to keep doing so, embarking in spiritual practices, and loving in such a way that they show each other their “messiest” parts. As I read, I wondered how the memoir would be different if some parts had been organized differently, such as putting contentious moments between Moïse and her father and the wisdom Kristine shared that helped the author navigate such tricky relationships back-to-back.

But then I was reminded of Jennifer, a woman whose partner took photos of her through all the stages of cancer, right up until the last photo of her headstone. You sense where the photos are going as Jennifer does not get better, and when I hit the end, I found myself scrolling backward to bring Jennifer to life again because my sadness for this stranger was so penetrating. My instinct to bring Jennifer back mirrors the way Love is the Thread is written; Kristine near the end, then Kristine full of life. Friendship after Kristine’s death, and Kristine at the beach. The weaving of Kristine’s presence, from life to death and back again, gives readers some relief from what is obviously profound grief in Moïse’s heart, but like a family-friendly film, Kristine’s presence impacts Moïse when she uses the nudges, suggestions, and effortless advice Kristine imparted during their friendship. You come away with a good feeling that is sweet, enduring, maybe slightly saccharine, but nonetheless enjoyable.

17 comments

  1. Great review! Tbh I never would’ve looked any closer at this one than the title and cover- I like knitting and great friendships but they aren’t topics that would entice me to pick up a book. A friend lost to death who suffered from bipolar and helped another woman through a tough time in the wake of a toxic relationship, however, sounds full of depth and plenty inspiring, though I can see not wanting to commemorate some of those details in cover imagery! This sounds like a definite instance where it’s key to look beyond what first meets the eye- a very unique and important memoir, indeed. Thanks for sharing it.

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    • I didn’t realize until I saw your comment that I accidentally shared two posts today at the same time. *sigh* A lot of the covers from Pearlsong Press don’t necessarily catch my eye, but I know folks who design covers for big presses are expensive because they do such a great job, plus you have to pay for any image you use that isn’t your own or copyright free. I’m not into knitting either, but I do remember learning a lot about knitting when I read that sheep farmer book when the entire country did a shelter-in-place and was fascinated by what goes into textiles.

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      • Oh, that’s interesting, this was the only one that showed up in the reader for me today! I will have to go back in and check out what your other post was, too. 🙂
        I don’t think I will ever find reading about knitting appealing. Maybe something more broad and informative about textiles, but knitting is one of those things I have to see and hold with my hands to appreciate. Kind of like how nature descriptions do nothing for me, though I love looking at nature with my eyes. Or how exercise feels good but reading about someone exercising makes me want to die of boredom. Some things just don’t translate onto the page for me.

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        • I think the part about knitting wool that interested me was the natural properties of wool that I didn’t know about, such as how it’s largely waterproof, and despite what most of us think, it temperature regulates despite the season (hot/cold).

          The other post that went up was my interview with Susan Allott.

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    • Kristine knitted the hearts used on the cover as a fundraiser for breast cancer–before she was diagnosed. It seemed like a natural choice to incorporate them for the cover. (I inherited about a dozen of them.) ☺️

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      • The hearts I really like and felt were fitting (and so nice that Kristine made them!). It’s more the background color, which is a creamy and gray palate that doesn’t quite make the hearts or the title pop as much as it could. Color composition is hard. I studied it for many years and still can’t figure out what makes a completely balanced composition.

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      • Ah, that’s so sweet! The context definitely increases the appeal of the cover, and it sounds like a lovely tribute to Kristine. It’s so nice to hear you got to hang on to a few of the hearts! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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  2. This sounds beautiful. And the formatting of writing it as the memories come is so unique but sounds indeed like a reflection of how our memories work and how they deal with grief.

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  3. This sounds really lovely. The concept that to help move through our own pain, we must help others move through theirs is a profound one, and honestly I rarely hear of it not working. I myself find it healing when I focus on helping others, rather than stewing in whatever my complaints may be that day (not that I’m constantly bitter or anything, but say, sending a donation to a charity rather than buying myself crap on amazon always feels good) LOL

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