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Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Lost Quilter is the 14th installment in Jennifer Chiaverini's Elm Creek series and the first that I have read. I wondered why I didn't know about these books before now because I really enjoyed the book. The series starts with The Quilter's Apprentice. The author has a nice website at http://www.elmcreek.net/ which includes discussion questions for some of the books, although not this one.
Joanna is a runaway slave who makes her way to Pennsylvania to the Elm Creek Farm. There she is sheltered and cared for when she gives birth to her son. Unfortunately, someone gives away the fact that she is there and she is taken away by slave hunters. She is sold to her master's brother and is forever branded as a slave who runs. Her son was not discovered by the slave hunters so she mourns his loss as well as the loss of her freedom. She is valuable as an excellent seamstress and she manages to make a quilt that, with landmarks hidden in its stitches, she hopes will help her make her way north again someday. She also finds love but is forced to leave her husband and newborn daughter behind when the daughter of the house marries and moves to Charleston but cannot leave without her favorite seamstress.
I thought that the author did a good job of portraying slave life and helping us feel how difficult their lives must have been. The story was interesting but I think that the book could have been a bit longer. The ending felt a bit rushed and I would have liked it to be drawn out more than it was.
She kept things quite clean despite the portrayal of abuse, sexual and otherwise. There was very little swearing and only some sex, none of it very explicit at all. There was also some violence with the slave beatings. If you let a younger teen read the book, which I would, I would suggest discussing some of the abuse with him or her. Rated PG-13.

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