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How to Make an American Quilt
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How to Make an American Quilt

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  4,921 ratings  ·  329 reviews
"Remarkable...An affirmation of the strength and power of individual lives, and the way they cannot help fitting together."
An extraordinay and moving reading experience, HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT is an exploration of women of yesterday and today, who join together in a uniquely female experience. As they gather year after year, their stori
Paperback, 254 pages
Published February 23rd 1992 by Ballantine Books (first published 1991)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  4,921 ratings  ·  329 reviews

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Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
After reading this book over a dozen years ago, I wrote to Whitney Otto in care of her publisher to thank her for writing this book. The characters resonated very strongly in the heart of my own experience.

Whitney sent a typed reply. . . yes, typed on an old typewriter. She said that is how she wrote her novels. She was especially gracious and down to earth. So next time you love a book, write the author in care of their publisher and let them know.
Feb 04, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is centered around a group of women that quilt together. It is supposed to represent a sampling of American Women. The truth is, I didn't think it was a really good representation. It seemed all of them had pretty serious issues involving infidelity of either the woman or her spouce. The precentage that was effected seemed unrealitic to me. Maybe it was really supposed to be a sampling of women's experiances with love affairs...

I had very little respect for most of the women in the boo
Robin Reynolds
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
After reading the prologue, I thought this was going to be a quick, easy and enjoyable read. I thought wrong.

The prologue is written in first person narrative, by Finn, and quite honestly, I can't even remember now anything she said to us, the reader. The first chapter is titled "Instructions No. 1", and is written directly to the reader, detailing what you need to begin a quilt. Then the next chapter begins the story of two sisters. After that, the chapters alternate, between a set of instructi
"How to Make an American Quilt" is a patchwork of lives that make up a quilting group. The ladies all live in Grasse, California, a small town outside of Bakersfield. Otto wrote this short novel by interspersing chapters dedicated to quilting, in-between chapters dedicated to each of the quilters in the group. What I didn't figure out right away was that each chapter that described the quilting related to the character description of the next quilter. Each person was different and therefore each ...more
Sezín Koehler
What a beautiful novel. I couldn't believe how much she packed into such a slim volume. The decades, the history, the intimate details of a group of quilter's dreams and hopes.

While I used to be an avid crocheter, knitter, embroiderer (before my wrists got all messed up from the weather in Prague) I was never able to master quilting. I'm not good with numbers and measuring, and so quilting was a challenge I could never get over. But reading this book made me wish I could quilt. The history of t
Dawn Michelle
Jul 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Dawn Michelle by: Corner Connection Read

Read~July 10, 2010
3 Stars

I don't really know how I feel about this book. I know I really enjoyed the movie and maybe that is why I didn't care a lot for this book. In the movie, there were resolutions (endings if you will) to everyone's stories. I felt things were resolved somewhat. The book did not do that (I kept waiting for it, and it never happened) and for it, it fell flat because if it.

I enjoyed several of the stories..Sophia in particular and also Anna's story. But there was just somet
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This novel is beautifully constructed, with chapters about quilting interspersed with the stories of the quilters, a group of eight women in Grasse, California, “of varying ages, weight, coloring, and cultural orientation,” as observed by the granddaughter of one of them. Nice read.
May 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I really want to sew a quilt now. The story was written like varied snapshots of these womens lives and i was left wanting more
Sep 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, own, 1967-1997
Some have compared/may class this with Bridges of Madison County to some degree and while the "mush" factor is present there is SO much more to it -- and I loved the quilt theme -- like life, bits and pieces joined and changed and growing into a unique whole. I also loved the relationships of the women -- sisters, grandparent, parent and child, friends, rivals, the whole gamut.

July 2010 - this has not lost it's oomph since I read it last. I think it is a keeper in the sense that it offers new "
Rachel B
Nov 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, abandoned
Boring. Lots of profanity and sexual references. Apparently it's mostly about romantic relationships, and I'm not interested in that. I was more interested in the quilt theme, which appears to be more of an afterthought. ...more
Whitney Otto’s debut novel How to Make an American Quilt is a patchwork of stories about a group of women who share a weekly quilting circle. Each chapter delves into the life of a particular woman within this circle, tracing her arc from young womanhood to maturity. With lyrical prose and fine detail she creates a study in miniature of the lives they lead. There are the ‘flower girls’ Glady Joe and Hy, so alike and yet so different. Will sisterly love endure loss, heartache and infidelity? Ther ...more
Mar 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-reads
Favorite Quotes

No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows it’s own weaknesses, the exact placement of the heart. The tragedy is that one can still live with the force of hatred, feel infuriated that once you are born to another, that kinship lasts through life and death, immutable, unchanging, no matter how great the misdeed or betrayal. Blood cannot be denied, and perhaps that’s why we fight tooth and claw, because we cannot—being only human—put asunder what God has jo
Becky Galambos
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure why this book was a bestseller.

There were numerous problems that made it hard for me to finish this book. I found it very hard to connect with or care about the characters, the plot, or the setting. The plotline...was there one, really? It just seemed to jump around between characters, time periods and situations with lots of wordy pontificating on life.

I received this book as a gift from a swap partner, and will pass it on to someone else to read, as I have no interest in keeping
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this more than I did. I get what the author was trying do do, use the Crazy Quilt as a visual representation of how disparate lives can come together and join into something meaningful, much the way fabric scraps are stitched together into a work of art.
But instead of flowing, the story jerked around between characters, quilting instructions, and odd interjections.
A second read might be make more sense, since it took me about half the book to figure out what she was doing
Jane Rattray
Jul 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
didn't finish. like the movie better. ...more
Lisa Stegall-dokoozlian
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
RemArkably entertwining.

Like life.
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
This book must have been suggested by Franklin Habit when I took a crazy quilt class with him last fall. So glad I finally had the time and concentration to read it.
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'm quickly losing patience with this book, and I don't think I'll be finishing it (unless I run out of books and get desperate). It's not badly written, which is why it's getting two stars instead of one. However, I'm finding it difficult to empathize with some of the sentiments being expressed. Although I usually find it stimulating to read about characters who think differently than I do, I feel there should be some kind of inner logic to their beliefs rather than a feeling of, "Huh?" on the ...more
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, owned
A book that has been on my "to read" list for quite a while, since I saw the movie (or part of it) on TV a number of years ago. I recently saw the book at the library's used book store and bought it. The book tells the story of a grouop of quilters in a small California town. The back story, more so in the movie, is the summer prior to the wedding of Finn, the granddaughter and great niece of two of the quilters. The women in the quilt circle are Glady Jo, Hy (the Flower sisters), Sophia, Consta ...more
Alexandra Barker
Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I found this book in the used section of a charming local bookstore in Camden, Maine. Having vague memories of enjoying the movie many years ago, I bought it. It was not at all what I expected, reading more as a collection of short stories about the (most romantic) lives of a group of women who quilt together. Each chapter tells a woman's story, and in between each are "directions" for quilt making, focusing on a step or issue that serves to foreshadow what is to come in the proceeding chapter. ...more
I liked this book so well that I reviewed it for the R.E.A.D
Book Group. I loved the way the author took seven sets of quilting instructions and used them to bind together her story of the women who sit together to make the quilts. It is a beautiful story about women and the passages in their lives. It deals with many different issues and experiences. It addresses things like infidelity, youth, aging, betrayal, grief, misunderstandings, friendship, motherhood, forgiveness, joy and love. It takes
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the stories of each of these women. However, I was waiting for the author to tie it all together with Finn's life at the end of the book, but that never happened. I honestly felt like I had picked up a book that was missing chapters, which was disappointing because I liked the characters so much. ...more
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: us
I loved A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity, but this one was plain boring. ...more
Nov 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Follows the lives of six members of a quilting circle. Interspersed with quilting directions that are more a commentary on life than quilting. Couldn't help wanting more about each of the women--each could have justified her own book. ...more
John Lucy
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'll admit, this isn't my type of book. Get that out of the way. Even so, I think that the excellent concept, that various styles of quilts relate to a variety of life experiences, and then telling stories based on those quilts through the lives of a quilting group, could have been executed better. The story could have been told with more fluidity. Rather than there being an introduction to a type of quilt, and then a story relating to it but with no mention whatsoever to the quilt, except via t ...more
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book, but mostly really enjoyed it. There was too much sex for my taste, but I really loved most of it. (Note: the movie was a big disappointment. They kept the sex, and took out the parts I liked) It had a similar feel to The Help where the chapters tells the story of a different characters and they all weave together. Each chapter also starts with an intro about quilting that is an analogy for the point of the chapter. The stories themselves are about American ...more
Christie Park
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wellllll I actually give this one 3.5-3.75 stars.

It wasn’t amazing, but it was good. The various stories of each of these women’s lives, loves, disappointments, and failures were interesting to explore. The parallels between the binding of parts together in quilting and in marriage was well done. They even addressed this same theme by exploring the challenges of being biracial.

The narrator talks about her apprehension that her single self and her married self can’t be reconciled AND that her li
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it
In this short book, which could be read in a day or two, a handful of women in a small town in the Sonoran desert of CA meets regularly to quilt. Chapter by chapter Instructions on "how to make a quilt" are interwoven with social commentary on each individual woman's lot in life, speaking to feminism and racism, specifically. We learn each of their stories and relationships unfold. Some parts were very beautifully and poignantly written, some featured incisive and insightful social commentary, ...more
Feb 06, 2021 rated it liked it
Finally, I am finished! The smaller length of this book was deceiving - it was not a quick read. And the number of characters, plus the format (each chapter about a different woman) was a bit confusing to me. Often I had to go back to figure out who the character was and how she related to the other quilters. But with that said, I was surprised at how appropriate this was to read in February in honor of Black History Month. And having just finished "The Vanishing Half," it was interesting to see ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked up How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Ott on the recommendation of a hairstylist. Actually, she recommended the movie, which I haven’t seen yet. I decided to read the book first and I’m glad I did. The book has an unusual format. It is told from the point of view of a younger woman describing the older members of a quilting group in the town of Grasse, outside of Bakersfield, California. The narrator weaves the women’s stories together using aspects of quilting as metaphors. I’m a ...more
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LQM's Good Books ...: Are the characters friends? 1 1 Apr 01, 2020 03:08AM  

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Whitney Otto is the bestselling author of How to Make an American Quilt (which was made into a feature film), Now You See Her, and The Passion Dream Book. A native of California, she lives with her husband and son in Portland, Oregon.

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
28 likes · 4 comments
“Why are old lovers able to become friends? Two reasons. They never truly loved each other, or they love each other still.” 1747 likes
“No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows it’s own weaknesses, the exact placement of the heart. The tragedy is that one can still live with the force of hatred, feel infuriated that once you are born to another, that kinship lasts through life and death, immutable, unchanging, no matter how great the misdeed or betrayal. Blood cannot be denied, and perhaps that’s why we fight tooth and claw, because we cannot—being only human—put asunder what God has joined together.” 324 likes
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