In 1862, war comes knocking at the door of the community of Water's Ford, Pa., and as Union supporters, the local men rally to answer the call to enlist. As their men march off to their unknown fates, the women of Elm Creek Valley are determined to contribute their share to the war effort and use their sewing and quilting skills to craft quilts and other items so desperately needed by their menfolk.
In “The Union Quilters,” Jennifer Chiaverini's latest Elm Creek Quilts novel, the women left behind in times of war show their strength and compassion in a fascinating historical story that sheds a new light on the hardships faced at home during the arduous Civil War.
The ladies of Water's Ford each face widely varying yet common fears as the Civil War tearing their country apart rages on. Constance Wright's husband Abel is an accepted member of the community and a skilled rifleman, but is turned away from enlisting simply because he is black. Dorothea's pregnant sister-in-law Charlotte Granger is worried about her husband, Dr. [Jonathan] Granger, who sends comforting, regular updates on the men from home to his wife, but also sends more detailed letters to his former love, Gerda Berstrom, causing ill-will and strife among the two women.
Anneke Bergstrom must face whispers from the town since her husband refused to enlist, preferring to stay out of the fray, and Dorothea Granger Nelson worries about her educated schoolmaster husband Thomas who carried her Dove in the Window quilt into battle with him, not realizing that she was pregnant with their second child.
A patriotic project to supply new hospitals in Washington with quilts bands the women together, and the project turns into an opportunity for them to show they are capable of running their lives, families and community with great success. Though tension and worry reign over the small community, the women do their best to support one another and hold their families together until their men come marching home.
The 17th book in the Elm Creek Quilts series, “The Union Quilters” is a deeper look at the original group of women who began the quilting group that has been the focus of Chiaverini's novels. With a sharp eye to detail and historical fact, Chiaverini has combined the stories of the women left behind during war with how quilting allowed the women to cope to create an intriguing story that is timely with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War approaching. This novel is one of Chiaverini's best works to date.