Jennifer Chiaverini has made quite a name for herself with her best-selling Elm Creek Quilts series. From the Civil War to the roaring ‘20s to contemporary settings, these novels have offered suspense, romance and, at times, in-depth looks into the social, political and cultural differences that helped shape a nation. In the latest Elm Creek Quilts novel, The Union Quilters, readers are introduced to Dorothea Granger—beloved wife of Thomas—as she stands in her kitchen, swallowing her tears, watching the man she loves prepare to cross Pennsylvania to enlist in the Union army in 1861. Dorothea is a true leader in her small town: She’s constantly helping other families, running the sewing circle and even using her home as a station on the Underground Railroad. But having to keep the tears from her eyes as Thomas departs is almost impossible. Constance Wright and her boys live in the small town of Elm Creek as well. Her husband, Abel, is also packing to join the men on their march into battle, but Abel has an obstacle the others do not. He’s African American, and the Union has yet to let men of color wear the blue uniform and stand up for their rights. Among the other residents in town are Gerda Bergstrom, a slightly bitter woman who’s in love with a man she can never have, and her sister, Anneke, whose own husband refuses to join the fight, choosing instead to stand by his opinion that you should never kill your fellow man. Like the quilts that are created by these fantastic ladies’ hands, Chiaverini’s storylines are seamlessly united. Between the sewing circle becoming an organization that will do all they can to support their noble fighting men to the in-depth accounts of frightening battles to the vivid look at the intense prejudice that existed in a world teetering on the cusp of freedom, every moment of this story is truly unforgettable. Chiaverini has once again written an intense and beautiful book—so much so that readers will almost hear the hollow echo of the fife and drum as they immerse themselves in every compelling page.
Chiaverini has an impressive ability to bring a time and place alive, showcasing the effects of Prohibition on farmers in Sonoma Valley. The wine country of California is a popular setting for novels right now, and it is fascinating to get a look at the history of the place.
When Rosa learns that her abusive husband has fallen in with bootleg mobsters and that there are guns, money and liquor in her barn, she takes her two children and the money. They assume new identities in San Francisco with Rosa’s childhood sweetheart, Lars, and learn of a possible treatment for the children’s mysterious illness. However, they’re paying the doctors with stolen gangster money and know they are being hunted. They end up settling in Sonoma Valley, where they hire out as farm hands. Their new friends will change their lives and make them committed to their new home, but the tightrope between the mob and the revenuers is a hard balance. Can Rosa and Lars make a family together and get a second chance at happiness? (DUTTON, Feb., 416 pp., $27.50)
This volume in the now long-running Elm Creek Quilts series goes back to finish a story begun in The Runaway Quilt (2002). Joanna, runaway slave and quilter, traveled the Underground Railroad to Elm Creek Farm in 1859, only to be captured and forcibly returned to Virginia. Sylvia Compson has learned part of Joanna’s story through the journal of her great-great aunt Gerda Bergstrom and related historicalresearch. Now, the discovery of a bundle of Joanna's old letters reopens the mystery of what happened to the former slave. This story concentrates on Joanna and the Civil War years but also extends to her family and descendents. Once again clues unearthed from styles of quilting and fabrics used in different quilts help Sylvia and her friends track down what really happened during a remote period in history and help drive home Chiaverini’s point that women’s history adds a vital layer to our understanding of the past. This is an outstanding series of novels about a fascinating craft. Quilting, in the hands of Chiaverini, allows us to explore human relationships in all their complexity.
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.
If you are familiar with the Elm Creek Quilts series, then you know Jennifer Chiaverini's books are light and sweet without being too light and sweet. The Christmas Quilt fits the mold perfectly. Sylvia Bergstrom Compson, master quilter and matriarch of Elm Creek Manor, flashes back to past Christmases, from the time she and her sister learned the Bergstrom family's famous strudel recipe to the winter when her husband and brother went off to fight in World War II. The captivating story unfolds at a perfect pace. GRADE: A!
— Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Chiaverini, author of the Elm Creek Quilts novels, delivers a rich holiday tale that predates last year's Master Quilter. Sylvia Compson, nee Bergstrom, 77, is determined to make it the dullest holiday ever at Elm Creek Manor, to which she returned, a year and a half ago, after 50 years of estrangement. Her Bergstrom relatives are gone; her memories of Christmas past are fraught. But young Sarah McClure, Sylvia's partner in the quilting camp that's brought Elm Creek back to life, wants to spend Christmas with Sylvia — and she wants it tinsel strewn. Home is here now, not with the mother who dislikes Sarah's husband, Matt. Sylvia reluctantly agrees to visit the trove of ornaments in the attic. As the women discover an unfinished Christmas quilt, a mixed bag of memories spills out along with the feathered star blocks: strudel making in the Depression; tree trimming during World War II; memories of a sister, Claudia, who forfeits Sylvia's love until it's too late. Reconciliation and redemption: of course. But it's not won cheaply — there's no saccharine in this sweet story.
— Publisher’s Weekly
While searching for decorations on Christmas Eve, Sarah finds a lovely unfinished Christmas quilt. Elm Creek master quilter Sylvia knows the quilt's history and narrates several tales of holidays past, recalling how many times the quilt had been pulled out of storage to be completed, only to be forgotten until next year as a family drama unfolded. Eventually, the quilt was put away for good, not unearthed for over 50 years. Will this be the year it is finally finished, under happy circumstances? With eight books in the “Elm Creek” series, libraries should plan on demand for Chiaverini's latest, but even readers unfamiliar with the series will enjoy this charming story of love and family.
— Library Journal
The latest in the Elm Creek Quilt series explores the lore surrounding the use of quilts to signal runaway slaves traveling the Underground Railroad. Sylvia Compson, owner of Elm Creek Farm and the last of the Bergstrom family line, is intrigued when a quilting student shows her a quilt that complicates the family legend of her ancestors' involvement in the Underground Railroad. She finds old quilts hidden away in the attic, accompanied by a memoir written by Gerda, the spinster sister of the Bergstrom patriarch. The quilts and the memoir raise questions about the Bergstrom family's history that trouble and intrigue Sylvia. Chiaverini switches between passages in Gerda's memoir and current-day events at Elm Creek Farm, including genealogical and historical research, taking the reader back and forth between the present and the past to reveal a long-forgotten family secret. Fans of the three previous Elm Creek Quilts novels will enjoy this latest installment.
“Fates and Traitors is a novel about mothers and sons, brothers and sisters, the line between patriot and traitor, and the lengths we go to for love. A fascinating look at a slice of our country’s history, an incisive portrait of obsession, and overall impossible to put down.”
—Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of At the Water’s Edge and Water for Elephants