The Master Quilter: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
$16.00; Simon and Schuster
Review by Linda Augsburg, executive editor
Whether you’re a long-time fan of Jennifer Chiaverini’s Elm Creek Quilt novel series (as I am) or unaware of the series, The Master Quilter is sure to delight and captivate its readers, quilters or not. While the series is set around a (sadly) fictional quilting retreat center, the stories of the eight characters — women with varied lives and backgrounds — will have you identifying with their joys and struggles as the story unfolds and you will certainly connect with one or all of these quilters.
In The Master Quilter, recently released in paperback to honor its 10-year anniversary, Chiaverini employs an interesting storytelling angle — how does one person’s circumstance and secret affect a tight-knit circle of friends. In this book, each chapter captures the story of the same few pivotal months for the Elm Creek Quilters. The twist is that the stories are told from each character’s perspective. The shift in perspective speaks to understanding someone only by walking a mile in that person’s shoes, as each character is working through their own challenges while also interacting as part of a group of friends and coworkers. The struggles and changes that face each woman are illustrated in ways that’s relatable and familiar — from 26-year-old Summer’s journey to independent adulthood and Gwen and Judy’s shifting professional paths to matriarch Sylvia’s late-in-life second marriage and the challenges Bonnie faces with both her quilt shop and her shaky marriage. While the original plan of creating a surprise bridal quilt for Sylvia provides a touchstone for many characters through the book, the secret that each quilter is keeping weaves through the story’s plot to add depth.
As the sixth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series, The Master Quilter mentions characters from previous stories but Chiaverini provides enough background information to allow a series newcomer to enjoy the book as their first. If you’re a stickler to knowing the order of books, Chiaverini has an FAQ section on her site, elmcreek.net, which provides the order of the stories, since they weren’t originally written as a series. In addition, quilters will appreciate that Chiaverini is a quilter, so references to projects, supplies, and tools are accurate.
Treat yourself to a little quilt-focused fiction and make some new fictional friends at Elm Creek Manor. Whether you start with The Master Quilter, or read this one in its proper place in the series, you’ll enjoy the quilt-focused conversation peppered into each chapter and you’ll feel like you’ve gained some new fabric-loving friends along the way.
On my “to-make” list: While this book doesn’t have instructions or projects, Jennifer Chiaverini and C&T Publishing released Sylvia’s Bridal Sampler from Elm Creek Quilts that contains images, instructions and diagrams for all 140 blocks in the previously fictional quilt along with images of quilts made by other quilters inspired to make a version of Sylvia’s quilt for themselves.