Just a Dropped Stitch is a memoir told in interlocking short stories.
It’s a family photo album where each snapshot tells its own ministory. You can look at, and understand, each picture, but it’s not until you’ve finished flipping through the entire album that you develop an intimate sense of who these characters are, who this family is. You thought you knew them, understood all the subtleties and dynamics, but, change the angle, soften the focus, flip the page there’s a different story.
Jesse, the narrator, is on a search. She’s trying to identify the “dropped stitches” in her own life, to name them, and reknit them into a whole.
The book opens with her mother dying, while Jesse struggles to prevent the inevitable, refusing even to name it. We learn that Jesse is a lesbian, desperately wants to have children, and just has to figure out how to make that happen. We meet her children, Noah and Sophie. We’re introduced to Anna, who becomes Jesse’s life partner, her spouse, even while the world struggles to catch up with the concept. We meet grandparents, and learn that in Jesse’s family writing is revered, while simultaneously fraught with crippling anxiety. We meet her brother Ben who damaged her in ways that infected her whole life, but who is as much wounded as a wounder.
Jesse has a story to tell, and she isn’t sure it’s safe to tell it.
Loss and grief, being silenced and silencing oneself, becoming frozen, and the heat-generating, melting capacity of love; these are the themes of the stories in Just a Dropped Stitch. The power of telling, the importance of naming, the redemption that writing brings, these themes emerge over and over.
Meanwhile, life goes on. Keep flipping through the album and you see snapshots of parenting: going hiking with fifteen-year-old Noah, embarrassing the kids because of the hat you wear, shopping for a bat mitzvah dress.
Finally, we return to Jesse’s mother, who makes an appearance from the grave, embarrassing Jesse at a job interview. The book ends in the hospital while Jesse waits to hear whether she will be diagnosed with the disease that killed her mother.
And, at the end, there’s a final snapshot: a Chinese box, with sides that drop open, revealing a blood-red interior with nothing to hide.
Praise for Just a Dropped Stitch
“How do you tell a life story, with all the myriad stories, the secrets, the multiple selves that go into it? Laurie Levinger has written her way to an answer beautiful and true, fierce and tender, redemptive and heart-rending. In the process she’s found a form and a voice that can carry the full range of a woman’s—daughter’s, mother’s, sister’s, lover’s—experience. Listen.”
Ellen Lesser, author of The Shoplifter’s Apprentice, The Other Woman, and The Blue Streak
“Once I began reading, I could not stop. It is a beautifully written memoir, and more: a provocative revelation about love, family, the death of a generation impacted by holocaust, and the politics of fear and acceptance. It needs to be read!”
Laura Simms, storyteller and author of The Robe of Love
“Laurie Levinger takes us from one stage of adulthood with all it’s suffering and joys to another so seamlessly that we are only gradually aware of the giant steps she has taken to claim her voice. There is a camaraderie of spirit in these stories that weaves the reader in. She bravely raises difficult issues, looks at them squarely, with intelligence and compassion.”
Charlotte Houde Quimby, New Hampshire State Representative