Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Runaway Quilt, Elm Creek Quilts: A book review

In this fourth book of the series, The Runaway Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts Series #4) opens with Sylvia Bergstrom having received news that her family's connections with the Underground Railroad may have been more than what she'd originally been told. When a quilt which was most likely made by a resident of Elm Creek more than a century ago ends up in the hands of the descendants of slave owners, Sylvia is driven to determine the truth, and to find out the extent of what part her family played in history during the pre-Civil War era.

Sylvia tackles a task she'd been putting off for a long time--she goes to the attic and begins searching through over a century's worth of family heirlooms to find clues to her past. She discovers a trunk with quilts and a journal, written by her great-grandfather's sister, her aunt Gerda. Sylvia is delighted and reassured to find confirmation of many of the family stories which had been handed down through the generations. Her family did indeed conduct a station on the Underground Railroad. However, they came to be stationmasters in a rather unexpected manner. The journal holds other surprises, as well.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks, with Sylvia moving between the past and the present. Her friends are supportive of her journey, and Elm Creek Manager Summer even quietly conducts library research to one day share with Sylvia. Sylvia's relationship with her suitor and childhood friend, Andrew, continues to grow and blossom. Other recurring characters make an occasional appearance. But, clearly, this particular book of the series is about Sylvia.

This book also makes reference to the myth of quilt codes being used on the Underground Railroad. The author, however, chose not to support too strongly the fabricated "quilt clues," only occasionally making reference to these unfounded elements. Rather, she opted to use the concept of a picture quilt, showing the way like a map, not unlike a well known children's book published not many years before this novel. Perhaps this concept should have been left out altogether, as there is no evidence that such picture quilts existed either, but the author at least made somewhat of an attempt to make clear to the reader that all of these concepts are not historically accurate.

Nonetheless, it is another light-hearted, enjoyable read in the series. The Runaway Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts Series #4) will keep you in suspense, and brings you to a couple of very surprising and unexpected revelations. If you like fiction, and you like to quilt, you will like this book!

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