Rebecca's Reviews > The Runaway Quilt

The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
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's review
Jul 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: adventure, family-story, historical, mystery
Read in July, 2012

Sylvia Bergstrom is the last of her family. An avid quilter, she has set up her family home, Elm Creek Manor in Pennsylvania, as a mecca for quilters, with her staff hosting a series of summer quilting camps. Sylvia has always taken pride in the family stories of their farm being a station on the Underground Railroad, and after a quilt from the deep south turns up with the name "The Elm Creek Quilt," she is motivated to search through her overstuffed attic for the Civil War era quilts her aunt told her of. She finds not only the quilts, but a memoir written by her great-great aunt, Gerda Bergstrom, a German immigrant. Gerda tells the harrowing story of Elm Creek's role in the Abolitionist movement, and a family scandal so great the town changed its name to be rid of the stain.

I enjoyed this story, even though I have no interest in quilting. I liked the double-layered effect, with Gerda's and Sylvia's stories alternating; Sylvia's act as respite between the acts of Gerda's tale, which is full of disappointment, betrayal, fear, and more. Gerda writes very much in the style of the era, full of rhetorical had-I-but-known statements that amp up the suspense and apprehension. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the Underground Railroad and stories of the time. The only caveat is that it does perpetuate the feeling that anyone who had slaveholders among their ancestors is necessarily tainted by association; visiting the sins of the fathers on the children. I don't believe in that.
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