October 06, 2011

The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

The 4th book in this wonderful series, the Runaway Quilt could be read as a stand-alone or as part of the series. Due to this fact, I am not going to summarize the first three books as I don't think it would help any.

Sylvia is the owner of Elm Creek Manor, a large place with grounds that plays host to a Quilter's retreat during the summer. Running the business are her good friends from the Elm Creek Quilter's circle. Since they run the business, she often spends her retirement traveling with her sweetheart Andrew around the country. It is on one of these travels that she is introduced to a quilt that connects to Elm Creek Manor. The only troubling part about this, is the fact that it came from a family who had former slave owners in their past.

From her family's stories Sylvia knows that Elm Creek once served as a station on the underground railroad. Because of this, she is alarmed to think that maybe one of her family had branched off and owned slaves of their own, hence the quilt being made. She goes through the attic and finds three antique quilts and a memoir from a sister-in-law of Anneke, the original mistress of Elm Creek Manor.

The memoir is told by Gerda and explains the trevails and past of Elm Creek Manor. Most specifically it revolves around one escaped slave and the details of her flight. It also shows Anneke's and Gerda's relationship and some of the history of the family. The book takes us part in the memoir and part Sylvia's reaction to it. The more she reads the more she is disappointed in her family and she questions the people she once though they were.

Chiaverini has made this novel very engaging. While its not documented history it does offer an explanation on how signals for the underground railroad were used. Like some of her other quilt books, there are no instructions in this one, but if one cared to look they could probably find the patterns mentioned in this book. Instead it tells the stories of a few specific quilts.

The language in this particular book can get rough. While the cusswords are not spelled out, it is still easy to infer which word is probably meant. Aside from that, the language in the book is descriptive and as easy to read as ever. Chiaverini has a wonderful way of describing quilts so that you can see them in your mind.

A lovely novel. I can't wait to continue on with the series.

The Runaway Quilt
Copyright 2002
329 pages

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