October 06, 2011

The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

One of the many books in the Elm Creek Quilt series by Jennifer Chiaverini, this book could actually be more of a stand alone than any of the others. The only commonality it has with the other books are that some of the characters were briefly mentioned in a story in one of the other books. Aside from that, this is a book all its own.

We are first introduced to Dorothea, a young woman who lives with her Uncle and parents on her Uncle's farm. Her Uncle Jacob is a strict man and the family, while learning a great deal, has a hard time dealing with his strict rules and non-stop work. However, they hope that their son (who is studying in the East) will inherit the farm so they do their best to please the Uncle. Despite his strict rules Dorothea is able to go out once in awhile and is being courted by one man, while another openly disdains everyone in the town but intrigues her just the same.

It is during this time they are staying that Uncle Jacob requests Dorothea to make him a quilt exactly to his standards. While it is an odd design and extremely difficult to make, she finishes it exactly how he wants it. It is only later upon his death do they learn the true meaning of the quilt. It is an aide for the Uncle's station on the underground railroad, and Dorothea must be prepared to fill his shoes in helping these people, despite all the danger that it causes.

The writing in this is just as easy to read as all of Chiaverini's other work. With each potential book however, it seems to me that she is losing some of the detail that made me fall in love with the series at the first book. The quilts are only standardly described and no special care given to them. The characters are well developed, but after all, with the beautiful "quilted" cover of the book, one would think the insides quilts would be just as beautiful. Chiaverini certainly presents some interesting characters in this novel as well. She has a knack for presenting characters to either end up as good or bad, but leaves the reader not knowing until the end truly which type they are. But aside from this she has the standard characters that are good and you want to cheer for. Its a nice mix.

I can't say I didn't like this book though. It certainly was an enjoyable read once I realized the regular characters were not going to be appearing and that the whole storyline would take place in the past. Once I got past that it had quite the adventuresome storyline for a quilting novel. It is quite the idea to speculate that quilts were widely used to help runaway slaves and it make me more appreciative that I have it as a hobby. I do wish it would have fit more nicely in with the rest of the series since it is marketed as a part, but I suppose a take off every once in awhile doesn't hurt.

You don't have to read this book as part of the series since it is totally unrelated, but I recommend that you do. It is just as valuable of a work as the rest of them.

The Sugar Camp Quilt
Copyright 2005
306 pages

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