October 06, 2011

The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

I normally don't like the books in the Elm Creek Quilt series that diverge from the main storyline, but I found myself liking this one. Although I'm ashamed to admit it, I don't remember that much about the main character Joanna in this novel. She had appeared in a previous one but was more a side character than a main character. Because there are thirteen books before this in the series, I'm not going to bother recapping them because that would be a novel in itself. Chiaverini provides enough detail that this book could be read as a stand alone anyway.

In an old drawer of a desk that had been hidden in the attic for some time, Sylvia Bergstrom-Compton finds a batch of letters written by one of her ancestors. They were written in regards to finding a woman who had been a runaway slave and stayed with them, only to be captured by slavers and returned South. She had always wondered what happened to this remarkable woman and sets about trying to find her history.

The rest of the novel details Joanna herself and what happened to her once she became a slave again. Forced even further south when her master gives her to his brother, she is regarded as an accomplished seamstress and makes a place for herself as one of the house slaves. In time, she falls in love with another slave and they have a daughter. They want more for their daughter however and as she quilts she starts working a map into her quilting. Her goal is to one day see them all to freedom. Things get even harder though when she is gifted to the master's daughter just recently wed and separated from her family. She is determined to go North and obtain freedom, but she doesn't want to leave her family behind.

Joanna is truly a like-able character. She has her moments of temper but who wouldn't in a situation like hers. She has the gift of hope and inspiring hope in others in addition to her many other talents. I do have to confess, I was silently cheering her on to slap her mistress as she was a perfect brat. That is my one complaint on the characters in this novel, they were either evil or good with no shades of grey. While I'm inclined to agree that slave owners were monsters, they probably all weren't quite as evil as the ones in this novel appeared to be.

I found that Chiaverini's writing became a little more harsh in this novel but that is understandable due to the nature of the subject. As much as it hurts to think about, people were beaten and owned and this is an undeniable fact of our history in this country. It may offend some sensitive readers but I think most should be able to handle the truth. As far as her description in this book it once again was on the scant side. Joanna's freedom quilt was barely described and it served more as a prop to remind the reader she wanted to be free and had to make a map to help herself.

While this book still wasn't as good as the ones who follow the main storyline I did enjoy it. I would have liked to see the characters developed more and a tad more detail, but overall it was an engrossing story. I look forward to the next in the series.

The Lost Quilter
Copyright 2009
337 pages

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