CIRCLE OF QUILTERS is the story of a job hunt. An exclusive rural
Pennsylvania quilt camp advertises for applicants well-versed in
quilting art. They must submit sample lesson plans, be able to
teach, and have a sense of humor. Maggie Flynn, Karen Wise, Anna
Del Maso, Russell McIntyre and Gretchen Hartley are the jobseekers.
Each brings a unique history of quilting experience, and Jennifer
Chiaverini writes each quilter's backstory in a separate chapter.
At the end of the interview process at Elm Creek Quilt Camp, the
reader will have definite favorites for the instructor's job.
Expecting a novel in the vein of Chiaverini's THE SUGAR CAMP QUILT,
I was unprepared for the mundane slices of daily life covered in
CIRCLE OF QUILTERS. True to her intent of instructor selection, the
author does present each case with its unique merit. In particular,
Karen Wise brings an abundance of motherhood baggage that might
have been condensed into a shorter chapter. Sticky fingers,
Cheerios in the hair and complications faced by a nursing mother in
the interview, while realistic, are in excess. Needless to say,
Karen does not get my vote.
Sylvia Compson is the grand dame of the quilting circle who
conducts the questioning. She's gracious but has the horrific job
of keeping the inner group in line, especially Dianne. Dianne is a
renegade who vilifies and embarrasses the jobseekers with sneers
and demanding tones. Russell does not succumb to her snobbery and
exits the process in a huff. His success as a world-famous lecturer
on quilting leaves his door open. The seasonal work offers Anna yet
another opportunity, with talent as a chef, quilting as a second
option. Gretchen, in her fifties, has extensive experience as a
quilting instructor, being the former co-owner of a quilt shop and
possessing an intense desire to joint the Elm Creek Quilt
Chiaverini might well be a pseudo-psychiatrist when she explores
the motivations for these diverse personalities to succeed. A
"woman's novel," CIRCLE OF QUILTERS lacks the spark to divine
intense interest to the end. However, a glimpse into the popular
activity of quilting offers an education to the art.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 27, 2010
Circle of Quilters