Thursday, January 3, 2008

The New Year's Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

Do you ever pick up a book and feel like you're talking to an old friend. You don't have to stop and give back history before plunging into the latest juicy gossip. That's what it is like reading this Jennifer Chiaverini book. The New Year's Quilt is, I believe, the eleventh book in the Elm Creek Quilt series. Having read the other ten, I already know the characters, I know the back story. I even can guess at the resolution when I open the book. It is a quick, easy, fun read. The story revolves around Sylvia, the main character, who is reflecting on her life and thinking about the New Year's Eves she has lived through.
The previous ten books have all revolved around Sylvia, her friends, and her ancestors. The creation of quilts and the lives of the quilters play a central role in every story. The front end of the books all have drawings of the quilt blocks that are described within the story which is a nice artistic touch for the reader. The stories all intertwine in a vague way, but they are not necessarily sequels of one another. Having read them all, the reader has a good understanding of the world in which Sylvia Compson, master quilter lives. Some of the stories can stand alone as historical fiction. The New Year's Quilt is not one of those stories.
I would not recommend The New Year's Quilt to a reader who has not read Chiaverini's other stories. Everything in this book reflects back on stories that Chiaverini has told in the past. Sometimes too much so. I felt like Chiaverini was trying to wrap up the series and tie it with a neat little bow. There was nothing surprising. There was very little that I read that was in any way unexpected. In some cases it merely felt like a simple chapter that had been left out of another book. The present day story was fun but not deep or surprising or shocking.
I am curious now that I have finished the book whether or not Chiaverini intends to write any more books in the Elm Creek Quilt series. It seems as though she has drained every drop of possible material out of Sylvia's life story. I hope that if she does continue the series she moves forward and write about the future rather than returning to the past again.

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