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.