The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love

BOOK: The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love
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Praise for
The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love

“You’ll fall in love with the ladies of Sweetgum! Beth Pattillo knits an engaging novel where so many lives are woven together seamlessly.”

—L
EANNA
E
LLIS
, award-winning author of
Ruby’s Slippers

“I love the ladies of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society! Beth Pattillo has created characters so real I want to join their group and a setting so charming I want to visit on my next vacation. Thankfully I can get away and do that without leaving my cozy reading corner just by opening the pages of
The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love.
Warm and sweetly southern, Pattillo delivers everything you want in a story and then some.”

—A
NNIE
J
ONES
, award-winning southern author

Praise for
The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

“Jan Karon meets Jodi Piccoult.
The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society
is an intriguing look into the minds and hearts of a diverse group of women. This is a compelling and heartwarming story full of love and grace you don’t want to miss!”

—J
ULIE
L. C
ANNON
, author of
The Romance Readers Book Club

“Like Debbie Macomber, Beth Pattillo spins warm, compelling stories out of the lives of everyday people. Five women and a girl gather regularly at the Sweetgum Christian Church to knit, read, and talk, and in the process they confront their own secrets, dreams, and challenges. I hope this is the first of a series so I can revisit the Knit Lit Society again and again!”

—M
ARY JO
P
UTNEY
, author
of A Distant Magic

“Thank you, Beth Pattillo, for casting on characters who so vividly reveal our human failing to render and receive love, which, as you so artfully depict, we too often withhold, delay, rush, misdirect, or hide from. But thank you most of all for showing us how the smallest of tentative steps we take toward each other can help us to find
our
true selves, and therefore lead us closer to
God’s
perfect love.”

—C
HARLENE
A
NN
B
AUMBICH
, speaker, humorist, author of the Welcome to Partonville series

“I could almost hear the clack of knitting needles as I read through the pages of
The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society.
Beth Pattillo’s motley group of true-to-life characters deal with life’s struggles and share a camaraderie that few take the time to discover in this heartwarming yarn of true friendship. A must read!”

—D
IANN
H
UNT
, author of
For Better or For Worse

For the ladies of Pursuit—
You know who you are, and I know how fabulous you are.
Thank you for the love and support, but most of all,
thank you for the bling.

Every Tuesday at eleven o’clock in the morning, Eugenie Carson descended the steps of the Sweetgum Public Library and made her way to Tallulah’s Café on the town square. In the past, she would have eaten the diet plate—cottage cheese and a peach half—in solitary splendor. Then she would have returned to her job running the library, just as she’d done for the last forty years.

On this humid September morning, though, Eugenie was meeting someone for lunch—her new husband, Rev. Paul Carson, pastor of the Sweetgum Christian Church. Eugenie smiled at the thought of Paul waiting for her at the café. They might both be gray haired and near retirement, but happiness was happiness, no matter what age you found it.

Eugenie entered the square from the southeast corner. The antebellum courthouse anchored the middle, while Kendall’s Department Store occupied the east side to her right. She walked
along the south side of the square, past Callahan’s Hardware, the drugstore, and the movie theater, and crossed the street to the café. The good citizens of Sweetgum were already arriving at Tallulah’s for lunch. But Eugenie passed the café, heading up the western side of the square. She had a brief errand to do before she met her husband. Two doors down, she could see the sign for Munden’s Five-and-Dime. Her business there shouldn’t take long.

Before she reached Munden’s, a familiar figure emerged from one of the shops and blocked the sidewalk.

Hazel Emerson. President of the women’s auxiliary at the Sweetgum Christian Church and self-appointed judge and jury of her fellow parishioners.

“Eugenie.” Hazel smiled, but the expression, coupled with her rather prominent eyeteeth, gave her a wolfish look. Hazel was on the heavy side, a bit younger than Eugenie’s own sixty-five years, and her hair was dyed an unbecoming shade of mink. Hazel smiled, but there was no pleasantness in it. “Just the person I wanted to see.”

Eugenie knew better than to let her distaste for the woman show. “Good morning, Hazel,” she replied. “How are you?”

“Distressed, Eugenie. Thoroughly distressed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Eugenie truly was dismayed, but not from worry over Hazel’s discomfort.

“Yes, well, you have the power to calm the waters,” Hazel said with the same false smile. “In a manner of speaking, at least.”

Since Eugenie’s marriage to Paul only a few weeks before, she’d learned how demanding Hazel could be. The other woman called the parsonage at all hours and appeared in Paul’s office at least once a day. Although Eugenie had known Hazel casually for years, she’d never had to bother with her much. Eugenie couldn’t remember Hazel ever having entered the library.

“How can I help you?” Eugenie said in her best librarian’s voice. She had uttered the phrase countless times over the last forty years and had it down to an art form. Interested but not enmeshed. Solicitous but not overly involved.

“Well, Eugenie, you must know that many people in the church are distressed by your marriage to Paul.”

“Really?” Eugenie kept the pleasant smile on her face and continued to breathe evenly. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh, not me, of course,” Hazel said and pressed a hand to her ample chest. “I’m perfectly delighted. But some people… Well, they have concerns.”

“What concerns would those be?” Eugenie asked with measured calm.

Hazel glanced to the right and to the left, then leaned forward to whisper in a conspiratorial fashion. “Some of them aren’t sure you’re a Christian,” she said. Then she straightened and resumed her normal tone of voice. “As I said, I’m not one of them, but I thought I should tell you. For your own good, but also for Rev. Carson’s.”

“I see.” And Eugenie certainly did, far more than Hazel
would guess. Eugenie wasn’t new to small-town gossip. Heaven knew she’d heard her share, and even been the target of some, over the last forty years. She’d known that her marriage to Paul would cause some comments, but she hadn’t expected this blatant response.

“I’m mentioning it because I don’t think it would be difficult to put people’s fears to rest,” Hazel said. Her smug expression needled Eugenie. “I know you’ve been attending worship, and that’s a wonderful start.” Hazel quickly moved from interfering to patronizing. “The women’s auxiliary meets on Tuesday mornings. If you joined us—”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Eugenie answered. She was determined to keep a civil tongue in her head if it killed her. “I have to work.”

“For something this important, I’m sure you could find someone to cover for you.”

Eugenie tightened her grip on her handbag. In an emergency, no doubt she could arrange something. But this wasn’t an emergency. It was manipulation.

“Hazel—”

“Particularly at this time,” Hazel said, barely stopping for breath. “With all the losses we’ve had in these last few months… Well, our community needs leadership. Our church needs leadership.” She gave Eugenie a meaningful look.

Eugenie paused to consider her words carefully. “It has been a difficult summer,” she began. “Tom Munden’s death was so
unexpected, and then to lose Frank Jackson like that. And now, with Nancy St. Clair…”

“So you see why it’s more important than ever that you prove to church members that their pastor hasn’t made a grave mistake.”

“I hardly think that my attending a meeting of the women’s auxiliary will offer much comfort to the grieving.” Nor would it convince anyone of her status as a believer. Those sorts of people weren’t looking for proof. They were looking for Eugenie to grovel for acceptance.

Hazel sniffed. “Don’t be difficult, Eugenie. You’re being unrealistic if you expect people to accept you as a Christian after forty years of never darkening the door of any sanctuary in this town.”

“I’ve always felt that faith is a private matter.” That was the sum of any personal information Eugenie was willing to concede to Hazel. “I prefer to let my actions speak for me.”

“There are rumblings,” Hazel said darkly. “Budget rumblings.”

“What do you mean?”

“People need to have full confidence in their pastor, Eugenie. Otherwise they’re less motivated to support the church financially.”

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