Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Quilter's Apprentice: A Book Review

Well I'm back, I've had a longer absence since this book had more substance than the last 3 I read. (:

Title: The Quilter's Apprentice
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Genre: Drama/Arts and Crafts?
Reading Level: 14 and up

Sarah McClure and her husband, Matt, have just moved to Waterford, PA. While Matt finds work with a landscape company, Sarah, an accountant, wants to try something new. With no leads and no offers, she is depressed and frustrated. When elderly Sylvia Compson asks Sarah to help prepare her family estate for sale, Sarah finds new friends, and Sylvia, a master craftswoman, agrees to teach Sarah how to quilt. Sarah's new relationship inspires an exchange of confidences; she learns about Sylvia's "family skeletons" while facing her own difficult relationship with her mother. Patiently piecing scraps of material, the quilters explore both women's lives, stitching details and solutions together slowly but with courage and strength.

My Review: I really liked this book. I thought the story was very interesting, the characters were very real, and the writing was enjoyable. It was very sad, but deeply touching and the message it sends out, about the amazing power of forgiveness is beautiful. Some of the sub-plots in the story (like the bitter relationship between Sarah and her mother) were not developed enough or even finished for my liking but seeing as this is a series I guess Chiaverini revisits these things in later novels. I liked Sylvia the cantankerous master quilter who Sarah begrudging befriends in the beginning of the novel. She is very rude at first, but soon becomes friendly, and the deep pains in her past make you care for her as the novel progresses. She tells sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking stories about her childhood and her life on the World War 2 home front that are the most interesting parts of the novel. She does say "hmph" an awful lot but that's a minor annoyance. Sarah is a typical main character (we love typical) insecure and depressed, but she slowly becomes more self assured and helps patch together Sylvia's broken family. The friendship between the two main characters is very sweet as they each learn something special from the other and share their love of quilting. I was a little disappointed with the meeting in the ending between Sylvia and her estranged sister-in-law Agnes as it felt a little rushed as far as the narrative was concerned. After all it is Chiaverini's first novel so there's bound to be some faults, but I still liked it. The quilting parts were a little hard to imagine as I've never quilted and I wasn't really sure what was going on. They are very detailed and I'm sure quilters will really enjoy that. I've seen a couple quilting patterns but I've never known their specific names. If you don't know anything about quilting this book might be a little hard to read. I've added an image of a pattern that is used in the book. You should look them all up because they are really beautiful.
Content: Maybe one curse word but it wasn't actually used in cursing contexts if that makes sense. (:
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Recommend: yes it's very sweet. My mother and I both enjoyed it.

Below on the left is the pattern Turkey Tracks, which comes with a little old fashioned lore about it being bad luck to put on children's blankets as it will make them wanderers.

Upcoming Reviews: "3 Willows" by Ann Brashares


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