Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini
April 2000
Format: Paperback, 272 pages

First line: Sarah leaned against the brick wall and tried to look comfortable, hoping no one walking by would notice her or wonder why she was standing around in a suit on such a hot day.

From the back cover: When Sarah McClure and her husband, Matt, move to Waterford, Pennsylvania, she hopes to make a fresh start in the small college town. Unable to find a job both practical and fulfilling, she takes a temporary position at Elm Creek Manor helping its reclusive owner Sylvia Compson prepare her family estate for sale after the death of her estranged sister. Sylvia is also a master quilter and, as part of Sarah's compensation, offers to share the secrets of her creative gifts with the younger woman.

During their lessons, the intricate, varied threads of Sylvia's life begin to emerge. It is the story of a young wife living through the hardships and agonies of the World War II home front; of a family torn apart by jealousy and betrayal; of misunderstanding, loss, and a tragedy that can never be undone. As the bond between them deepens, Sarah resolves to help Sylvia free herself from remembered sorrows and restore her life - and her home - to its former glory. In the process, she confronts painful truths about her own family, even as she creates new dreams for the future.

Just as the darker sections of a quilt can enhance the brighter ones, the mistakes of the past can strengthen understanding and lead the way to new beginnings. A powerful debut novel by a gifted storyteller, The Quilter's Apprentice tells a timeless tale of family, friendship, and forgiveness as two women weave the disparate pieces of their lives into a bountiful and harmonious whole.

My thoughts: Once again, I seem to be late to the party - I just found this phenomenal series, Elm Creek Quilts by Jennifer Chiaverini  and there are already 20 books out. I loved the first book, The Quilter's Apprentice - it is such a charming story. This is definitely going to be another series I will be adding to my ever-growing list of series to be read!

Having a difficult time finding a job after relocating to a small town, Sarah takes the first one offered to her - to help an old, crotchety woman restore and clean out her family's estate to get it ready to be sold. Sarah agrees, but gives a stipulation - as part of her payment, Sarah wants Sylvia Compson, a master quilter, to give her quilting lessons. As Sarah painstakingly pieces together scraps of fabric to create her own quilt, Sylvia shares vignettes from her past. Through these stories Sarah is able to see why Mrs. Compson is the way she is and why she is so hesitant to join a local quilting guild, which Sarah ends up joining. Along the way, Sarah and Mrs. Compson devise a way to save Elm Creek Manor - and the plan, while a bit predictable, does provide some touching moments. We are introduced to quite a few characters throughout the book and I hope as the series progresses that we will find out more about each one.

While I am not a quilter myself, I found the details of the craft to be fascinating. I loved how Jennifer Chiaverini gave the name of each quilt block that Sarah was working on - with each block named, I found myself checking online to see what the block looked like. I did not feel that I was lost or struggling to understand the story at any point with all the quilting talk - in fact, if anything, it makes me want to give it a try myself one day! And I think I would try hand-piecing versus machine piecing.

I am looking forward to reading more of this series. But I have a question. There seems to be some debate as to how to proceed with the series - do you read it in numerical order, book 1 - 20 or do you read it in chronological order, therefore jumping all around? Those of you that have read the series, what is your opinion?

(I got this book from PaperbackSwap.)

Books in this series:
  1. The Quilter's Apprentice                    11.   The New Year's Quilt
  2. Round Robin                                           12.   The Winding Ways Quilt
  3. The Cross-Country Quilters              13.   The Quilter's Kitchen
  4. The Runaway Quilt                               14.   The Lost Quilt
  5. The Quilter's Legacy                            15.   A Quilter's Holiday
  6. The Master Quilter                               16.   The Aloha Quilt
  7. The Sugar Camp Quilt                         17.   The Union Quilters
  8. The Christmas Quilt                             18.   The Wedding Quilt
  9. Circle of Quilters                                   19.   Sonoma Rose
  10. The Quilter's Homecoming               20.   The Giving Quilt


  1. I have not read this series but it sounds wonderful. I am not a quilter either but that would not stop me from reading since I like learning new things.

  2. I'm a wannabe quilter so I think I'd love this!

    I just sent you an email about being a host for TLC Book Tours. I hope my email doesn't got to spam!

  3. I've read the series and it's good. I read them in numerical order. They do build on one another but there are some stand alone novels in and amongst the others. Some I liked better than others. My personal preference is that Jennifer Chiaverini needs to put Elm Creek to rest and branch out. I don't think every single character needs their own book! Hopefully she has done that with Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. I don't know if anything Elm Creek fits into that one or not as I have it in my TBR and haven't read it yet.
    2 Kids and Tired Books


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