Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini

The second book in the Elm Creek Quilts series following after The Quilter's Apprentice.

Round Robin reunites readers with the Elm Creek Quilters in this poignant and heartwarming follow-up to The Quilter's Apprentice, Jennifer Chiaverini's acclaimed debut novel.

The Elm Creek Quilters have begun a round robin ... a quilt created by sewing concentric patchwork to a central block as it is passed around a circle of friends. Led by Sarah McClure, who came to Waterford, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Matt, a few years ago, the project is to be their gift to their beloved fellow quilter Sylvia Compson. But like the most delicate cross-stitch, their lives are held together by the most tenuous threads of happiness ... and they can unravel.

As each woman confronts a personal crisis, a painful truth, or a life-changing choice, the quilt serves as a symbol of the complex and enduring bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. In weaving together the harmonious, disparate pieces of their crazy-quilt lives, the Elm Creek Quilters come to realize that friendship is one of the most precious gifts we can give each other, and that love can strengthen understanding, lead to new beginnings, and illuminate our lives.

Once again, this was a very pleasant, and easy, read. With the events in this book happening two years after those in the first book in the series, we meet up with all of the Elm Creek Quilters. Sarah and Sylvia's dreams have been fulfilled and Elm Creek Manor is now a quilter's retreat. The other members of the group are helping out with teaching, and everything should be great...but not everything is perfect.

Sarah and her husband Matt are having a few issues, especially given that he is concerned that they have got no ongoing security. Sarah still has not resolved her issues with her mother, and when she makes an embarrassing faux pas on a national TV show, Sylvia invites Carol to come and stay with them in the hope of reconciling the two women. It's safe to say that the visit doesn't quite go to plan.

For Sylvia, she is reunited with an old friend, but is she open to the fact that he may want more than just friendship? After having a pretty series health scare, she is forced to reevaluate her relationships with the people around her, including her old friend Andrew.

Of the other women, college professor Gwen has to deal with the fact that her daughter Summer doesn't actually want to go to college, instead wanting to make her way through life working with their quilting friends, either at Elm Creek Manor or working for Bonnie in her shop.

Bonnie meanwhile suspects that her husband is having an internet romance with a younger woman, and for Dianne, she is relieved when her oldest son finally seems to have found an interest...in skateboarding. When her nosy neighbour complains about a skate ramp in her back yard, Dianne calls on her friends for support.

The most poignant of the stories for me this time was concerning Judy. She was a child of a relationship between a Vietnamese woman and a GI father. When she is contacted by a woman saying that she is her half sister, Judy has to decide whether she wants to establish a relationship with her new found family, and risk alienating her mother, or does she want to leave things lie. Along the way, she learns some lessons about the nature of truth, particularly as her biological father does not always seem to have told the truth, to any of the people in his life, about Judy and her mother.

If there was one thing I would say about this book, it is that all the loose ends were tied up sssooo neatly..in fact everything fell in place almost too perfectly. Whilst that is great for the characters, I don't know that that is how things would really happened.

I was interested to see that on the author's website, she has a section showing what some of the quilts that are made during the books of the series would look like....a real bonus for someone like me that is NOT a quilter or crafty person at all! The Round Robin quilt made during this book is shown here.

Once again, an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours in the company of the women of the Elm Creek Quilting group.

Rating 4/5

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