Readers of The Quilter's Apprentice and Round Robin have been enchanted by Elm Creek Quilt Camp, where women gather each year for quilting, friendship, and fun. The third in the Elm Creek Quilts series introduces the Cross-Country Quilters, a group of far-flung friends who pledge to complete a "challenge quilt" -- symbolic of each woman's personal goals -- in one year's time.
These five women arrive at Elm Creek Manor hoping to find in their quilt lessons an escape from the problems they left at home. Julia, an aging starlet, has pinned her hopes to a plum role in a historical epic whose director is under the mistaken impression that Julia already knows how to quilt. Megan is a successful engineer who has won prizes for her miniature quilt designs. The one challenge she has yet to master is single motherhood. Donna, a mother of two, must hasten to teach her daughter independence and self-esteem -- lessons she, too, must take to heart. Grace is a renowned curator of antique quilts, whose creative flair is waning for reasons she is unwilling to reveal -- even to her closest friends. Vinnie, the senior member of the group, is a sunny soul with a tragic past. Her overwhelming desire is to bring happiness into the lives of those she loves.
Although the Cross-Country Quilters share a common creative goal, as the year goes by their bonds are tested by the demands of daily life. But despite differences in age, race, and background, the friends' love for quilting and affection for one another unite them in a patchwork of caring and acceptance. The quilt they make reminds them of an everlasting truth -- friends may be separated by great distance, yet the strength of their bond can transcend any obstacle.
At first when I picked this book up I was a little disappointed that the series was shifting focus from the main characters of the first two books, with only Sylvia having anything more than cameo appearances, and even then her appearances are very limited as well. In the end though I guess bringing different groups of people through the series will give it more longevity and less trite storylines than there would be if the same characters continued.
Another difference this time was that the story took place over a year. It opened with a group of strangers getting to know new people at a quilting camp and then followed them as individuals throughout the year until they came back to camp the next year. The challenge quilt that the new friends decided to make was meant to help them deal with their problems as individuals before they came back together as a group. For Megan that meant trying to get over her ex who left her to look after their son, for Donna it involved dealing with her daughter's upcoming marriage and either accepting it or doing something about it. The other characters were as interesting and well developed, although I would have to say that the aging Hollywood star, Julia, was probably my least favourite.
Once again this was an enjoyable read where friendship between women is the focus. Chiaverini knows how to tug at the heart strings without making you feel as though you have been manipulated. So far these books have been very consistent in terms of writing quality as well which is great when you have a long running series.
I am wondering though if I have been a little nasty in playing the library game for the next books in this series. Generally, as soon as I have finished a book in a series I go and put a request in for the next book in the series. This time, I have put the request in for the next two so that I can try and leapfrog the person who is reading the series in front of me. Is that bad??