In The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini, a runaway slave named Joanna was introduced to Chiaverini’s readers. Joanna’s bid for freedom was short lived. She was returned to a plantation in Virgina by slave catchers, leaving behind a beautiful quilt and a son. In Chiaverini’s newest addition to her Elm Creek Quilts series, The Lost Quilter, we finally learn what became of Joanna. Through old letters found by the Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson, an old diary belonging to Sylvia’s aunt and the quilt itself, we can discover the legacy Joanna left behind.
Chiaverini’s series are a delight. Quilter or not, there is something in these books for everyone. (Okay, maybe not everyone…they are absolutely chick lit, but chick lit without gratuitous sex, bad language, questionable judgment and with a sort of refinement to them) I’ve been a big fan of the series since the first book; The Quilter’s Apprentice and I’ve really enjoyed how the author keeps the series going. Some of the novels follow individual characters, some follow the cast of characters as a group and yet other novels, like The Lost Quilter use the characters and location as a jumping off point to other characters and other times. The author has a love of history and tells us anecdotes about the Civil War era that brings it to life.
“Not long after that, Joanna learned from Mrs. Ames’s Jenny that a few days before, in the very early hours of the morning while the officers were ashore, a slave harbor pilot named Robert Smalls had commandeered a Confederate transport steamer. He brought his family and a dozen other slaves on board, turned the ship toward the open sea, blew the proper whistle signal to each Confederate fort to secure permission to pass, and sailed out to the Union blockade, where he raised the white flag and turned over the ship to a Union captain. Joanna was thrilled by his story of daring and courage, and she wished with all her heart that she had known Robert Smalls and could have joined those families on board the Planter.”
True story--I looked it up, I always like it when a novelist tosses in a bit of verifiable history!
I'd recommend any of the Elm Creek Quilt Series, of course, if you’re not a quilter, then just read the novels, but if you’re a quilter too, you might want to check out the line of quilt project books that Chiaverini has written too. She not only uses quilts in her novels, but she also makes the quilts she writes about. That kind of authenticity is rare, and its so much fun to pick up one of her novels and see on the inside cover, artwork made up of the quilt blocks she uses in the novel. And its really nice to know you can give one of her books to your Grandma for her birthday and not be embarrassed when they read it!