“Why do you give?” asks Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson Cooper in The Giving Quilt, the New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini’s artful, inspiring novel that imagines what good would come from practicing the holiday spirit each and every day of the year.
At Elm Creek Manor, the week after Thanksgiving is “Quiltsgiving,” a time to commence a season of generosity. From near and far, quilters and aspiring quilters—a librarian, a teacher, a college student, and a quilt-shop clerk among them—gather for a special winter session of quilt camp, to make quilts for Project Linus. (In real life, Chiaverini has long been active in this charitable organization, dedicated to providing handmade quilts and blankets to children in need.)
Each quilter, ever mindful that many of her neighbors, friends, and family members are struggling through difficult times, uses her creative gifts to alleviate their collective burden. As the week unfolds, the quilters respond to Sylvia’s provocative question in ways as varied as the life experiences that drew them to Elm Creek Manor. Love and comfort are sewn into the warm, bright, beautiful quilts they stitch, and their stories collectively consider the strength of human connection and its rich rewards.
This 335-page book was (will be) released by Dutton on October 30, 2012.
Source: I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for a review.
My thoughts about the book:
What a lovely underlying theme for a story: Why do you give? This question evolves into the equally thought-provoking questions of: What do you give? and How do you give? This was my first intro to the Elm Creek series, though I’d been meaning to read Jennifer Chiaverini for years as I watched her books being checked out from the library where I worked.
Besides that, one of my dear friends is a quilter. Over the years, I’ve heard so much about the annual quilt camps she attends, it left me a little green with envy that a group of women who shared the love of this art form could go away for a week and work on their projects, no interruptions. While there, they are spoiled with great food, time to take long walks, get massages, and sew to their heart’s content. They enjoy the friendship and support of other campers. As well, the week away from it all gives them time and space to work out personal issues.
So when I read The Giving Quilt, virtually everything I read rang true to all the things my friend had told me. Ms. Chiaverini’s book made me long all the more to be a quilter, if only to gain the friendship and camaraderie that can be found in groups who come together to share their love of their art form and, in many cases, the spirit of giving back. My friend spearheaded the making and giving of hundreds of quilts to foster children in our area, as well as to wounded veterans.
As to The Giving Quilt: It probably was not the best introduction to the series, as it took a while for the story to get rolling. Ms. Chiaverini had the burden of introducing all the regulars who run the manor, and then all of the campers, before things could really get going. It was a LOT of characters to introduce--10 or so, and it took many, many pages. Fortunately, she introduced them all with such warmth, I felt as though they were old, dear friends, and so I didn’t mind the pace. It was as if I were there, and I loved and was loved by everyone, a real love fest. I also went gaga over the description of the manor. What a wonderful, grand old mansion!
As mentioned in the book description, the quilters arrive at Elm Creek Manor the week after Thanksgiving for a week long retreat known as Quiltsgiving. The quilts made will be donated to Project Linus, which gives quilts to critically ill children. Throughout the book, the stories of Pauline, Linnea, Michaela, Jocelyn, and Karen are being told as they are quilting.
Specifically, librarian Linnea’s husband has been out of work for a couple of years. Dealing with that is hard enough, but now Linnea is also facing a possible job loss, as her library is facing possible closure.
Junior high history teacher Jocelyn is dealing with being widowed.
College student Michaela is dealing with opposition to her dream of being a cheerleading coach.
Quilter Karen’s quilt shop is dealing with strong internet competition.
Quilter Pauline, who had decided not to attend her own quilt group’s annual get together, due to conflict with another member, learns some things about getting along with others.
In the end, in addition to making quilts for Project Linus, each has given the others support and perspective on how to deal with their personal issues, as well as having formed the bonds of lasting friendship. The what, why and how of giving has been answered on a personal and collective basis.
I love Ms. Chiaverini’s heartwarming and inspiring voice in this book, which I am pretty sure is present throughout the series. If ever you feel that the bond of women's friendships is missing in your life, pick up a title by Ms. Chiaverini, which will help to lessen this burden until you are able to find your real-life community.
Highly recommended, for the reasons stated above.