Knitting brought her back. After one lesson and two hours of knitting, she realized that she was able to get her mind off Grace's death. It eventually brought her back to language, as well - to reading newspapers and short articles and finally books. It took longer for her to start writing again, but when she did, she wrote “The Knitting Circle,” a novel about a group of women coming to terms with grief in its various forms. Writing it helped Hood deal with her daughter's death, but it also deepened her grief. “I had to get to the emotional truth,” she told a Woodstock audience gathered to hear her speak recently.
Hood came to Woodstock at the invitation of the Student Library Club. When the literary champion of knitting walked into Bates Auditorium, she found rows of women knitting. It pleased her to no end. She spoke with them about their projects. When she went to the podium to speak, the women kept their hands busy. When Hood's book, “The Knitting Circle,” came out, her publisher sent her on a book tour that included giving readings to knitting clubs. “When I read to knitting groups, they talked right over me,” Hood said laughing.
Hood will tell you that knitting saved her life. But Hood is a storyteller, and that night her stories were filled with humor as well as grief, joy and despair. She talked about her Italian grandmother, a beloved second-grade teacher, and her job as a flight attendant for TWA. She wrote her first short story in high school. “The writing was terrible,” she admitted, but it taught her the power of story. “I read to escape,” she said, “but I write to understand.”
Her first novel, written on TWA transatlantic flights, was “Somewhere off the Coast of Maine.” It was published in 1987. Six novels followed in 11 years. Five years passed after her daughter's death before she published “The Knitting Circle.” That was followed a year later by her memoir, “Comfort: A Journey Through Grief.” Hood called it giving voice to the feeling of grief. “I vowed to do it for those who don't have a voice,” she said.
Knitting didn't only bring her back to language, it led indirectly to adoption. When she and her husband decided to adopt a baby girl from China, their son Sam was thrilled with the prospect. And so they set out on an adoption quest. Hood learned a lot from reading. She learned that China's one-child policy has been harsh on baby girls. Thousands are abandoned each year, many in places they will be found and saved. Hood began to imagine what it must be like for Chinese mothers forced to abandon their little girls. She thought about the bravery required, and the love. “I felt like we were kindred spirits,” Hood said.
She began to write a novel about the adoptive couples and the Chinese women who abandoned their children in the hope of giving them a better life. The book's title, “The Red Thread,” comes from the Chinese legend that says children and parents are forever linked in past, present and future by a red thread. “It may stretch or fray, but never break,” Hood explained. It's a message that can give comfort to people everywhere.