October 06, 2011

The Winding Ways Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

Finally! Back to the original characters and storyline I loved. This book is just one of many in the extensive Elm Creek Quilter's novel, and as a result I will not be recapping the previous books because it would be a novel in itself. Also, this book could probably be considered a stand alone as well.

When we last left our Quilter's they were getting ready to say goodbye to two of their members, and hello to three new members who have come to join the staff of Elm Creek Quilt Retreat as teachers and one as a cook. This book details the original characters and their pasts and most importantly, what ways they took in life that brought them to love quilting.

We start and end with Sylvia who opens and closes the novel for us. She is working on a special surprise for her friends and thinks on all their personalities and what makes them so special. From here we move on to Judy, one of the quilter's who will be leaving the group for bigger and better things in another city. She will miss her friends and reminisces about the past and the grandmother who made her love quilting and yet feel out of her family as well. She worries that she won't be able to find such a wonderful group of friends in her new home as she leaves her treasured quilters.

Sarah has a surprise for everyone. She's pregnant! And even more surprising for her, there's more than one waiting to join she and her husband at Elm Creek. Her biggest worry is her mother though with who she has never had a positive relationship with. She hopes her mother will accept her children and recognize that Sarah is happy with her life and her husband.

Bonnie is still getting over all the sadness life has given her lately. Forced in such a little time to deal with the loss of her marriage, store, and home, she feels she is just drifting in the wind. Her friends all want her to start a new quilt shop at the Elm Creek manor, but Bonnie just isn't sure that is what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Gwen, sad that her best friend Judy is leaving, delves into memories of her own. Most specifically she remembers her pregnancy with her daughter Summer and the time she spent at her parents wondering where she was going to go with her life. To fill her time, she sets about researching the history of a quilt found in the church's lost and found and discovers a true passion for history.

Agnes thinks back to when she was a girl and first married to Sylvia's brother Richard. After his death she did the best she could do to keep the farm together, but eventually found true love and had to leave for her own sake and well being. She remembers her first attempts at quilting and how she should have learned to listen to reason rather than friendliness.

Summer, the other quilter who is leaving, is trying to figure out where she's going to live so far away from everything she has ever known. To make matters worse, her boyfriend is pushing her towards things she doesn't really want and she has to make a decision on what's more important. His happiness or hers.

Lastly we visit Diane, the most temperamental of the quilter. For as long as she has lived there she has had a running feud with her next door neighbor, Mary Beth. But, she must acknowledge that if it wasn't for Mary Beth, she may never have started quilting or met all the wonderful friends through the Elm Creek Quilters. Can she bring herself to forgive her neighbor?

All the characters in this novel are so complex. While Chiaverini does tend to make her characters either good or bad, I was pleased to see that she took one of her bad characters and began to have her grow as a person. I think it takes talent to do that in a book when usually the writing style is another way. I always feel a connection when reading about these wonderful ladies and their quilts. I'm not a big fan of Diane's but she does bring a bit of interest and unusualness to the group. Even though they're fictional, its easy to see the connection these ladies have with each other and their friendship is very believable.

The writing, as ever, is non-offensive and easy to read. The quilts are mildly described and while I'd like to see more detail, at least the cover and inside flaps of the book are filled with pictures of quilts and quilt patterns. This somewhat makes up for the quilts I'd like to picture in the novel itself. My only other complaint with the book was that it spent a lot of time on the character's pasts, but not as much time on the present in the story.

I was so glad to see Chiaverini return to "normal" in this book. I had missed the standard cast of characters and their story. It was definitely hard to get through the previous two books in the series as much as I was looking forward to hearing this story. I can't wait for the next book and hope that it continues along this storyline.

The Winding Ways Quilt
Copyright 2008
310 pages

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