About Jennifer Chiaverini
Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as six collections of quilt patterns inspired by her books. Her original quilt designs have been featured in Country Woman, Quiltmaker, Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Volumes 3-5, and Quilt, and her short stories have appeared in Quiltmaker and Quilters Newsletter. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. About her historical fiction, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, "In addition to simply being fascinating stories, these novels go a long way in capturing the texture of life for women, rich and poor, black and white, in those perilous years."
Praise for Jennifer's Books
Chiaverini delivers another satisfying Elm Creek Quilts story in the latest title in this excellent series. “Quiltsgiving,” held after Thanksgiving for Elm Creek campers, is tied this year to Project Linus, the organization that makes blankets for critically ill children. Updates on the recurring characters, including Sarah and Sylvia, are present but take a backseat to the engrossing stories of six women attending the retreat. A young woman uses the camp for a college service project while recovering from a leg injury. A librarian camper recounts her fight to keep her branch open amid censorship and budget cuts. Others deal with loss, including one woman who missed out on a job at Elm Creek. This volume features the series at its best, with warm, fully realized characters and powerful themes. The Project Linus and quilting details provide a nice overlay but do not overpower the story, making it enjoyable even for nonquilters. Debbie Macomber fans will enjoy this series.
The Giving Quilt
The Union Quilters is Jennifer Chiaverini’s newest novel, the 17th in her popular Elm Creek Quilts Series.
It takes a step back in history to the remarkable women who lived in Elm Creek Valley in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. The reader meets ancestors of some contemporary characters created by this author who skillfully blends quilting and history.
She will appear at 7:30 p.m. March 4 at the Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch for a reading, questions and answers and signing.
It’s not necessary to read the earlier books to enjoy this one. It’s a complete tale in itself, starting with the colorful endpapers that illustrate special quilt blocks these women used. Several of Chiaverini’s earlier books were set during the Civil War and characters reappear here to continue their stories. Some, for instance hosted runaway slaves in the Underground Railroad network.
The Union Quilters takes place in a rural Pennsylvania valley — and with northern soldiers in the thick of battle, in a rustic hospital and more. She has obviously spent untold hours in researching the accounts of life at that time and historical detail is woven in with character development. (She writes that she lives in Madison, Wis., and has access to the fine university library there.)
Families are left with the women in charge when men leave for war. They decide to build a meeting house where they can work together, raise money to help their soldiers and host educational programs. Capable women that they are, they determine to operate it themselves, to the consternation of the mayor and town council.
Though each has an individual story, they sew and knit and quilt and gather food to send to the men at war. And to socialize and lend each other support.
Each character represents a way of thinking, a facet of political thought of the time and for those who have read other novels in the series, there may be connecting threads. The situation of the one black family tells another piece of the town’s story, as does that of the German-born husband who doesn’t believe in war.
The Union Quilters is well-crafted and will interest historical fiction buffs as well as quilters. Those who are new to the series will probably next want to look up earlier titles with various settings and timelines.
Chiaverini returns to the quilters of Elm Creek Manor and introduces several new characters in her sweet latest novel (after Sonoma Rose). When Sylvia asks the participants in Quiltsgiving, a post-Thanksgiving weeklong get-together, why they quilt and why they give, their answers point to personal tragedies and triumphs, reminding readers of the powers of generosity and friendship. Jocelyn recent lost her husband in a tragic accident, and she channels her energies into jeeping his after-school programs alive. Linnea wants to keep the public library where she works open to all visitors, but a lack of funding and political squabbling make it difficult. Michaela is recovering from a leg injury sustained during a sabotaged cheerleading tryout, and she fears her future is jeopardized. Despite the particulars of each obstacle or victory, each woman finds encouragement in one another, and as they quilt, the stitch together their strendths to cope with individual struggles. Chiaverini's themes of love, loss, and healing will resonate with many, and her characters' stories are inspiring.