|Jennifer Chiaverini: Round Robin|
Books (Paperback) ISBN 0-553-58151-1
Sarah McClure made just that kind of comment during a brief TV segment about her business, Elm Creek Quilts. Her partner (Sylvia Compson), appalled at this discourtesy, invites Sarah's mother for an extended visit with her daughter. This mother and daughter face-off opens a cycle of confrontations in Jennifer Chiaverini's second Elm Creek Quilts novel Round Robin.
The novel continues the story of Sarah and her elderly mentor/partner Sylvia Compson as described in Chiaverini's first book The Quilter's Apprentice. Set in an historic old estate, Elm Creek Manor, near Waterford, Pa., the novel focuses on a group of women of varying ages, economic and educational backgrounds. The women become friends, and through quilting, their lives entwine like the vine border of a Baltimore wedding quilt.
Chiaverini successfully uses quilting as a vehicle for life issues. As the group helps others learn to quilt, they watch their own lives unravel. The women's fabrics and patterns, chosen for a round robin quilt for Sylvia, reflect their individual trials and decisions. A round robin quilt traditionally passes around a circle of friends. Each adds concentric patchwork or applique borders to a central block. As the quilt passes from one set of hands to another, the quilters' stories unfold. The wisdom they discover reflects in the blocks they make.
These likeable and sometimes quirky women and their families lead lives and form relationships resembling crazy quilts. The author allows readers to see not only the relationships -- between mothers and daughters, friends, neighbors, sisters, husband and wives -- but the process through which they change.
Similarities arise between this book and How to Make an American Quilt, by Whitney Otto, but Chiaverini incorporates a diverse list of contemporary life issues. With the nostalgic Victorian manor as a backdrop, Chiaverini poses questions concerning civil action, privacy issues, freedom, diversity, generation gaps and even the Internet.
The author (a quilter, young wife, new mother and romantic at heart) promotes love and friendship, but most of all, she hands readers hope. Chiaverini includes enough quilt information to please a quilter or interest a wannabe. Yet this sweet story of community, quilting and friendship, offers meaningful overtones. Round Robin, may be just the book readers need to motivate civil disobedience, jump start a new quilting project or take a look at their own lives using a different perspective. Or readers can simply enjoy a well-told story.
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