Excerpt from The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Book That Matters Most

A Novel

by Ann Hood

The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood X
The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2017, 368 pages

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Ava

Ava saw it as soon as she turned the corner. She stopped, squinting as if that would change what she was looking at. It was a week before Christmas on Weybosset Street in downtown Providence. The Christmas lights already shone, even at five o'clock, because the day was so dark and gray. The air had that festive holiday feeling that came from people bustling about with oversized shopping bags, cold air, tired decorations, a guy selling Christmas trees on the corner.

But Ava felt anything but festive.

She stood staring at the Providence Performing Arts Center marquee. She knew it was backlit in white with black letters announcing The Lion King, because she'd come here just last night, the tickets given to her by a colleague from the French department trying to cheer her up. But she couldn't actually see the marquee. No. The marquee was covered in red and green cable knit yarn, almost like it was wearing a sweater. Except Ava knew that it wasn't wearing a sweater. The PPAC marquee had been yarn bombed.

Beneath it, her best friend and neighbor, Cate, stood looking miserable in a matching hat and scarf and gloves the color of Christmas trees. Her gloved hands flailed about nervously.

"I didn't know," she was saying into the cold air, her breath coming out in puffs. "I'm sorry!"

Ava had come to hate those words. I'm sorry. How many times had she heard them in the past year? A thousand? Ten thousand? What had her kids thought was the biggest number when they were young? A gazillion. That was right. A gazillion. Had she heard I'm sorry a gazillion times?

Cate was moving toward her now. But Ava stayed put, as if she were stuck in place. Unlike Cate, she had forgotten gloves and a hat, and she was cold. Really cold. She was always forgetting things these days. She'd go to the bank without her debit card. Walk out to her car without her keys. Find herself at the grocery store without any idea what she'd come for.

"I'm sorry," Cate said again, standing right in front of Ava and clutching Ava's cold bare hands in her warm gloved ones. "If I'd known," she began, but didn't finish because she didn't have to. It was clear what she meant. If she'd known the PPAC marquee had been yarn bombed, she would have had them meet somewhere else. But she hadn't known and here they were.

"It's all right," Ava said, even though it was anything but all right.

Ava was looking up at the marquee again. The stitches were so perfect, the colors so vivid against the gray afternoon, those cables twisting defiantly upward.

"Why don't they arrest her?" Cate said, turning to look.

A small crowd was forming, everyone staring at the marquee. Everyone amused, impressed. Impressed by what? The woman's audacity? Ava had seen that firsthand and was anything but impressed. By her talent? Even Ava had to admit that it must be hard, seemingly impossible, to knit such huge objects. And to knit them so well. But was that really impressive? Curing cancer was impressive. Scoring a ten in the Olympics was impressive. Making a soufflé that didn't fall. Saving people from a sinking ship. Even getting 800s on your SATs was impressive. But this? This was ridiculous.

Cate had Ava by the elbow, and was leading her back in the direction from which she'd come.

"I had no idea," Cate kept saying.

"It's okay," Ava said, even though nothing had really been okay since the day Jim left her. Left her for that yarn bomber, Ava added silently as she glanced back over her shoulder where the flashes of dozens of cameras looked like something hopeful—fireflies or shooting stars.

Cate smiled and said, "I've heard this place down here has good martinis. Pomegranate, maybe?"

Excerpted from The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood. Copyright © 2016 by Ann Hood. Excerpted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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