By Lisa Graff
Available now from Philomel (Penguin)
A TANGLE OF KNOTS is a story told in bits and pieces, where every little bit connects and creates a whole that is lovely and magical. What at first seems random is interconnected, people moving in and out of each other's lives in the most unexpected ways.
Cady is an orphan with a Talent for baking cakes. That's talent with a capital T. The world of A TANGLE OF KNOTS is much like ours except for the fact that most people have Talents. It can take awhile to find yours, and it may not be impressive, but it's something special that you're very, very good at. Those who are Fair and have no Talent can still be successful, like the woman who owned the world's best peanut butter factory.
Cady's gone an exceptionally long time without being adopted. Miss Mallory knows exactly who the perfect parents for her charges are, so the process is often quite quick. Then the perfect father walks into her life. A TANGLE OF KNOTS is told from many points of view and at first I disliked how short each chapter was. I felt like I would get a sense of the new narrator then be whisked away. Then I got into the rhythm of the story and liked how it alternated, every section slotting perfectly into place.
Although A TANGLE OF KNOTS is a sort of gentle and innocent fantasy, it does have an excellent villain and some hints of darkness. The Owner is incredibly creepy, although his past does evoke some pity. The Talents, while treasured by their owners, can also be troublesome. One character found her Talent very late in life and misses the career she had as a Fair - the career she never would've advanced in because she wasn't Talented. The magic is joyous to the child characters, but the adult narrators have a more nuanced view.
I think A TANGLE OF KNOTS will appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and Richard Peck. It has the same sense of wonder as Dahl and the warmth of Peck. It's domestic, but still contains an amazing adventure, a long-lost legacy, and a woman without words. Best of all, it contains recipes for Cady's mouthwatering cakes (and a pie).