October 06, 2011

Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Elm Creek quilter's stories I know and love are now back. After being vaguely disappointed in the last two, I was beginning to worry that Chiaverini had lost her touch. Not so! With this novel she more than redeems herself. Since there are so many books before this one that it would take a whole page just to summarize and that fact that all these books can be read as a stand-alone I'm not going to go over the previous books.

In Circle of Quilters, Elm Creek Quilters camp, a well renowned quilter's retreat has sent out an ad looking for two new teachers for their camp. This book details the lives and experiences of five of them and just what it would mean to them to become a part of Elm Creek Quilts.

Maggie, a worker at a retirement home had never really been greatly enthusiastic about quilting until she found an antique quilt at a garage sale. After the restoration of this beautiful work, she set about remaking another one in case she ever had to give the original up. It turned out so well that she went on to teach classes and even publish a book involving the quilt. She did all this in addition to researching the maker of the quilt and just what had inspired the beautiful piece of work. Her only worry though is that she has been so centered on one quilt, that she might not be a diverse enough applicant for the job.

Karen, a stay at home mother to two wily boys thinks she wants more out of life than to just be a mother. She loves her sons but has always loved quilting, so much so that she even takes to hiding her fabric stash from her eco-minded husband. She used to be a teacher but had never taught quilting but that doesn't stop her from applying. However, at a last minute cancellation from her husband her worst fear is realized and she has to take her two young boys with her to the interview.

Anna is a chef and loves cooking and anything food. While being troubled with an obnoxious boyfriend (my opinion, not hers) she has to hide her quilting as he thinks it is useless frippery and a waste of time. He also doesn't appreciate her quilting very much even though she has a very unique style. Due to her lack of experience teaching quilting Anna isn't sure how good of a chance she will have getting the job, but she knows she has to try.

Russell was probably one of the most touching stories within the book. His late wife was a quilter and after her death, he found an impulse to finish one of her quilts. Though it was trial and frustration at first, when he at last finished it he felt a deep sense of accomplishment and to his surprise, wanted to make more. He ended up being such a distinctive quilter that he was invited to lectures and started teaching classes. Elm Creek Quilts would be a great fit for him but he's not sure how receptive the group will be to a male quilter and his style.

Last but not least is Gretchen. Born into a poorer family that had always worked for a family of upper class standing, Gretchen is no different when she works with the daughter of that family in helping run a quilt shop where she is a minor partner. Her partnership is not considered equal however and she finds herself longing for more and also wanting some kind of recognition for her talents. She is perfectly qualified for the job and has vast teaching experience, but will Heidi her partner let her go?

Reading the stories of all these characters was very interesting. They all came from very different backgrounds and it showed quite a difference in their talents. All wanted the job so badly and deserved it so much that I had trouble knowing who I was rooting for!

Chiaverini's writing is always so pleasant. I don't think she could be offensive if she meant to. I was pleased to find that the description of the different quilts was returned to an outstanding quality. This was something that had lacked in previous books and I had missed it.

I have to say this is probably one of my favorite books in the series. So much so that I'm glad that I have the next book on hand and can start reading it right away. I can't wait to find out what happens at Elm Creek Manor now that there are new teachers entering the picture.

Circle of Quilters
Copyright 2006
309 pages

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