Book Review: The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

runawayquiltThe Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the fourth novel of the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series, Sylvia Compson searches for evidence of her ancestors’ courageous involvement in the Underground Railroad. After learning of her family’s ties to the slaveholding South, Sylvia Compson scours her attic for clues and discovers a window into the world of her ancestors: the memoir of her great-grandfather’s spinster sister,

Gerda Bergstrom. Gerda’s memoir chronicles the founding of Elm Creek Manor and the tumultuous years when Hans, Anneke, and Gerda Bergstrom sheltered fugitive slaves within its walls, using quilts as a signal of sanctuary. But little did the staunchly abolitionist Gerda know that a traitor was among them, placing the Bergstroms in grave danger and leading to family discord, betrayal, and a secret held for generations.

With the help of the Elm Creek Quilters and clues hidden within antique quilts discovered in the manor’s attic, Sylvia stitches together the pieces of her past and decodes the true nature of the Bergstrom legacy.

 

Number 4 in the series and the Elm Creek Quilters is up and running as a business. This book focuses on Sylvia, who finds a diary written just before the Civil War, along with several old and partially damaged quilts.

It is written by Gerda, who came over from Germany with her brother to found the house and business that Sylvia and her siblings inherited. The Runaway Quilt takes us through Sylvia reading through this journal and finding out things about her family and the community she joined during a very difficult period in American history.

The book does deal with escaped slaves on the road away from the southern states, but avoids the more brutal facts of the business, rather addressing it from a rather genteel 21st century viewpoint reading a 19th century gentle-woman’s diary. I put “Beloved” by Toni Morrison on the back burner whilst reading this book, so it’s interesting to see the two different approaches to writing about the same time from two different perspectives.

It was a pleasant read that took me just a few days to get through and is a nice addition to the series. The addition of a few quilt styles, with their possible historical inspiration is also a nice touch (but does anyone else wish there were example completed items included in the book?)

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