The Quilter's Apprentice

Jennifer Chiaverini, Author
Jennifer Chiaverini, Author Simon & Schuster $18 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-84972-0
Paperback - 271 pages - 978-0-452-28172-1
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4391-4257-8
Hardcover - 426 pages - 978-0-7862-5740-9
Prebound-Other - 271 pages - 978-1-4176-9888-2
Paperback - 207 pages - 978-1-4165-5699-2
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Quilting is the overall motif of this leisurely paced, predictable first novel, set in a small Pennsylvania college town. Young Sarah McClure, an accountant tired of number-crunching, has accompanied her landscaper husband to the area, but she soon finds that jobs are few and uninteresting. Discouraged, she agrees to do housework on a temporary basis at Elm Creek Manor, a mansion on the edge of town. The manor's occupant, Sylvia Compson, an embittered master quilter and widow in her 70s, has returned to the family home following the death of her sister to ready it for sale. Sylvia's story, told with increasingly long flashbacks and confidences during the private quilting lessons she agrees to give Sarah, reveal a tormented family history of wealth and privilege ruined by tragedy. Sarah's sympathy for Sylvia is juxtaposed against the innuendoes she hears at meetings of the Tangled Web Quilters, a group of local women who mistrust Sylvia. Meant to be a sympathetic catalyst, Sarah comes across as whiny instead of plucky, and the book is burdened by far too many descriptions of her job interviews and subsequent insecurities. Chiaverini is at her best when describing the manor and its once grand history, but her prose is merely serviceable and the dialogue is stilted. Sure to be compared to Whitney Otto's How to Make an American Quilt, this novel fails to connect on an emotional level. Author tour. (Apr.)
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