Sunday, March 28

The Runaway Quilt - Jennifer Chiaverini

When Sylvia Compton, owner of Elm Creek Manor and lifelong quilter, is shown a quilt that may have been part of the Underground Railway, she's spurred to search through the vast attic for evidence that, as family legend suggests, her family were part of the anti-slavery journey. Though evidence suggests that the Log Cabin pattern, long believed to signal willingness to harbour runaway slaves, actually evolved after the Civil War, Sylvia's keen to find a quilt supporting her more romantic beliefs.
When she finds not only a couple of truly old quilts but also the diary of Gerda, Elm Creek patriarch Hans' spinster sister, Sylvia's a little disappointed - she had hoped for something from his wife Anneke who, according to family lore, played an integral part. Instead Sylvia learns some painful truths about her family, and is more immersed in and connected to the past than she realised.
The fourth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series takes us back to the Manor, and once again shows how domestic work both binds women and families together, and pushes them apart. The writing is as crisp and evocative as previously, while the plot is unique and textured - both Gerda's journals and Sylvia's responses are genuine and involving, and the layering of truths with family lore, a natural preference to project oneself in the best light, and the blurring distortion of history are well depicted, so that the contrast between Sylvia's certain knowledge and Gerda's near-contemporaneous recollections is interesting and believable.
Since reading about Harriet Tubman when a child, I've been interested in this time in American history, and I really liked the mingling of past with present, as the work of women speaks to them over time. Runaway Quilt is a powerful, absorbing novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Lost Quilter (book fourteen in the series) is a companion piece to The Runway Quilt - Alex

The Elm Creek Quilt series:
1. The Quilter's Apprentice
2. Round Robin
3. The Cross-Country Quilters
The Runaway Quilt
5. The Quilter's Legacy
The Master Quilter
7. The Sugar Camp Quilt
8. The Christmas Quilt
9. Circle of Quilters
10. The Quilter's Homecoming
11. The New Year's Quilt
12. The Winding Ways Quilt
13. The Quilter's Kitchen

14. The Lost Quilter
15. A Quilter's Holiday
16. The Aloha Quilt

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