The Lost Quilter

The Lost Quilter

"This is an outstanding series of novels about a fascinating craft. Quilting, in the hands of Chiaverini, allows us to explore human relationships in all their complexity" —Booklist

Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson treasures an antique quilt called by three names—Birds in the Air, after its pattern; The Runaway Quilt, after the woman who sewed it; and The Elm Creek Quilt, after the place to which its maker longed to return. That quilter was Joanna, a fugitive slave who traveled by the Underground Railroad to reach safe haven in 1859 at Elm Creek Farm.

Excerpt

Though Joanna’s freedom proved short-lived—she was forcibly returned by slave catchers to Josiah Chester’s plantation in Virginia—she left the Bergstrom family a most precious gift, her son. Hans and Anneke Bergstrom, along with maiden aunt Gerda, raised the boy as their own, and the secret of his identity died with their generation. Now it falls to Sylvia--drawing upon Gerda’s diary and Joanna’s quilt--to connect Joanna’s past to the present of Elm Creek Manor.

Just as Joanna could not have foreseen that, generations later, her quilt would become the subject of so much speculation and wonder, Sylvia and her friends never could have imagined the events Joanna witnessed in her lifetime. Punished for her escape by being sold off to her master's brother in Edisto Island, South Carolina, Joanna grieves the loss of her son and resolves to run again, to reunite with him someday in the free North. Farther from freedom than she has ever been, she nevertheless finds allies, friends, and even love in the slave quarter of Oak Grove, a cotton plantation where her skill with needle and thread soon become highly prized.

Through hardship and deprivation, Joanna's dreams of freedom and memories of Elm Creek Farm endure. Determined to remember each landmark on the route north, Joanna pieces a quilt from the cast-off scraps of the household sewing, concealing clues within the meticulous stitches. Later, in service as seamstress to the new bride of a Confederate officer, Joanna moves on to Charleston and to other secrets that will affect the fate of a nation, where Joanna’s abilities and courage enable her to aid the country and the people she loves most.

The knowledge that scraps can be pieced and sewn into simple lines, beautiful both in and of themselves and also for what they represent and what they could accomplish, carries Joanna through dark days. Sustaining herself and her family through ingenuity and art during the Civil War and into Reconstruction, Joanna leaves behind a remarkable artistic legacy that, at last, allows Sylvia to discover the fate of the long-lost quilter.

Read the first chapter »

Quilts

Joanna’s Freedom Mr. Lincoln’s Spy

Praise

In her 14th series installment, Chiaverini picks up the threads from The Runaway Quilt to spin another tale of adventure, love, perseverance and, of course, quilting. When Sylvia Bergstrom Compson and her staff find a stash of old letters hidden in an antique desk in the manor's attic, the story whips back to 1859 to recount the travails of the formidable Joanna North, an escaped slave who spent a brief respite at Elm Creek Farm. Joanna is recaptured and sent back to the Virginia plantation she thought she had finally escaped, and is eventually dispatched to Charleston to work under her former master's demanding newlywed niece, Miss Evangeline. As the Civil War looms, Joanna learns that for a slave, nothing—love, family, loyalty—is sacred or certain, and she never ceases plotting her final escape in the patterns of her scrap quilting. This satisfying and redemptive narrative unfolds with cinematic clarity, and Joanna's journey is sure to have readers holding their breath for her until the last page.

— Publisher's Weekly

The winds of March are bringing in an eagerly awaited treat--the next  book in Jennifer Chiaverini's extremely popular Elm Creek Quilts series.  The Lost Quilter once again visits slave times, continuing the story of Joanna begun in The Runaway Quilt(2003).  Even if  you haven't read the first book, this one will grip you from beginning to end with her plight as a captured run-away slave who eventually helps fight the Civil War by spying in Charleston just before it burns. This story, for all of its horror and brutal truths about life as a slave, is incredibly uplifting and inspiring.  Chiaverini has done it again!

— ABA Indie Next List, Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Book Store

This volume in the now long-running Elm Creek Quilts series goes back to finish a story begun in The Runaway Quilt (2002). Joanna, runaway slave and quilter, traveled the Underground Railroad to Elm Creek Farm in 1859, only to be captured and forcibly returned to Virginia. Sylvia Compson has learned part of Joanna’s story through the journal of her great-great aunt Gerda Bergstrom and related historicalresearch. Now, the discovery of a bundle of Joanna's old letters reopens the mystery of what happened to the former slave. This story concentrates on Joanna and the Civil War years but also extends to her family and descendents. Once again clues unearthed from styles of quilting and fabrics used in different quilts help Sylvia and her friends track down what really happened during a remote period in history and help drive home Chiaverini’s point that women’s history adds a vital layer to our understanding of the past. This is an outstanding series of novels about a fascinating craft. Quilting, in the hands of Chiaverini, allows us to explore human relationships in all their complexity.

— Booklist

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