The Oysterville Sewing Circle: A Novel

Image of The Oysterville Sewing Circle: A Novel
Release Date: 
August 13, 2019
William Morrow
Reviewed by: 

Since childhood all Caroline Shelby has wanted to do is design and sew clothing. Living in New York City for ten years and far from her tiny seaside hometown of Oysterville, WA, she's about to get the break she's worked so hard for. Upon completing her art school education, she is employed by the well-known designer Mick Taylor and is now about to introduce her personal exhibition she's termed the "Chrysalis Line" at an upcoming fashion show. Imagine her shock when Mick's models grace the runway wearing her designs presenting them as his own. In this cutthroat industry, something like this is not unexpected, yet Carolyn feels betrayed. 

Lamenting over the loss of her career and not knowing what her future holds, she finds her best friend, top model, and Haitian-born, Angelique Baptiste appearing at her place late one night. Angelique, a victim of domestic abuse, fears for her life and needs a safe place for herself, Flick, her six-year-old, and Addie, age five. Caroline welcomes them, and the distraction of their presence relieves her current situation.

One day, Caroline returns to her apartment, finding Angelique lifeless from a drug overdose. Never in her wildest dreams did she realize her friend was using, and now there is another dilemma. She once promised Angelique she'd care for the children if anything should happen, something Caroline never thought would be a reality. Having no idea how to raise kids and now without a job, her only solution is to return home and find a way to support these two orphans. Another problem arising is Angelique's visa has expired, so she and her Haitian-born children are undocumented, and Caroline will not let them be deported. Suffering guilt for not perceiving her friend's condition, she is determined to make up for that by loving her precious kids at all costs.

Though consumed with self-pity, Caroline aches for these youngsters who are thrown into a completely different world. She intends to give them the best upbringing possible with the help of her large, supportive family.

When she arrives in town, she runs into Will Jensen, a man she fell in love with at 13 when he summered in Oysterville with his grandparents. She always assumed she and Will would one day marry, but instead he married her best friend Sierra. She is shocked to see him, and pledges to keep her distance, for the flame still burns in her heart for him.

Not knowing anyone, the children are apprehensive about starting school. They fear they will be shunned due to their ethnicity, so Caroline designs special shirts for them that become a big hit. When she's asked to make more for the PTA to sell, it gives her the promise of a small income.

Caroline heads to her favorite store, Lindy's Fabric and Notions, where she found her love for sewing and she now hopes to garner employment. Lindy befriended her as a child, giving advice on the craft, but unfortunately, Lindy does not need another employee.

As they chat, Caroline explains Angelique's untimely death and her vow to care for her children. She is so shocked when Lindy admits she too had been an abused wife and devises a plan to start a group supporting others going through these circumstances. With her sister's help she names her group “The Oysterville Sewing Circle," using this innocuous title that should not arouse suspicion to abusers while giving support to their victims:

"'Let's open with our mission statement. I stayed up way too late last night, trying to get the words right." She indicated the writing on the whiteboard. ‘The Oysterville Sewing Circle was founded to provide a safe, supportive community for survivors of abuse and their friends and family members.’ Okay, so it's not Shakespeare. Just want to be transparent. We're not a crisis agency—for that, you need to contact the numbers listed on the flyer. We're completely volunteer-run and self-supporting.'"

Heartened by the number of attendees, Caroline believes she's is on the right path.

There's an old saying that you never can go home again, so will this be the case with Caroline? As she forms a loving bond with the youngsters, she wonders if her dream career is out of reach or if there is something else on the horizon to fulfill her passion.

Wrought with anxiety and sadness, The Oysterville Sewing Circle incorporates the diverse subjects of domestic violence, racism, single parenting, and unrequited love. Through Caroline, a strong protagonist, many resolutions are presented to demonstrate that the direction one thought they were going may just turn out to be something completely different, yet very rewarding.