THE QUILTER'S LEGACY: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel

Jennifer Chiaverini, Author . Simon & Schuster $22 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7432-3613-3

Chiaverini's fifth and best Elm Creek Quilts novel again stitches together a patchwork of American life. This time she focuses on Elm Creek Quilts founder Sylvia Bergstrom Compson and her search for five quilts made by her mother, Eleanor, who died when Sylvia was 10. Sylvia and Eleanor's stories alternate, as Sylvia, an elderly widow now recovered from a stroke, prepares to marry her friend Andrew despite his children's opposition, while at the turn of the century, Eleanor, daughter of an affluent New York family, defies her mother by attending a suffragette meeting and quilting with her beloved nanny, Amelia Langley. When Eleanor's sister, Abigail, elopes with her father's business rival, Eleanor also runs away rather than be forced to marry Abigail's jilted fiancé. On her way out the door, Eleanor is offered a ride by Fred Bergstrom, which becomes the beginning of a long life together on his Pennsylvania horse farm at Elm Creek. The novel's high point is the poignantly detailed description of the flu epidemic of 1918. Less historical but equally touching is Eleanor's aging mother's arrival at the horse farm. Chiaverini's storytelling skills have noticeably improved. She approaches but never succumbs to sentimentality and keeps her account of hunts for antique quilts from becoming too predictable. She remains a keener observer of subtleties in quilts than in people, and more adept at capturing friendship than romance, but her gift for visual imagery (Abigail going down with the Titanic; Eleanor's quilts recast as wearable art) and gentle humor (a museum exhibit's explanation of one quilt's origins) blend seamlessly into prose that, like the needlework she portrays, proves intricate, lovely, comforting and uniquely American. Agent, Mary Masse.(Apr.)

Forecast:An 11-city author tour and Chiaverini's loyal niche readership should help make her latest (a Literary Guild, Doubleday and BOMC's Crafters featured alternate) a strong seller.

Reviewed on: 04/07/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
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