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The Lost Quilter: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel (The Elm Creek Quilts) Paperback – January 12, 2010

171 customer reviews
Book 14 of 19 in the Elm Creek Quilts Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her 14th series installment, Chiaverini picks up the threads from The Runaway Quilt to spin another tale of adventure, love, perseverance and, of course, quilting. When Sylvia Bergstrom Compson and her staff find a stash of old letters hidden in an antique desk in the manor's attic, the story whips back to 1859 to recount the travails of the formidable Joanna North, an escaped slave who spent a brief respite at Elm Creek Farm. Joanna is recaptured and sent back to the Virginia plantation she thought she had finally escaped, and is eventually dispatched to Charleston to work under her former master's demanding newlywed niece, Miss Evangeline. As the Civil War looms, Joanna learns that for a slave, nothing—love, family, loyalty—is sacred or certain, and she never ceases plotting her final escape in the patterns of her scrap quilting. This satisfying and redemptive narrative unfolds with cinematic clarity, and Joanna's journey is sure to have readers holding their breath for her until the last page. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This volume in the now long-running Elm Creek Quilts series goes back to finish a story begun in The Runaway Quilt (2002). Joanna, runaway slave and quilter, traveled the Underground Railroad to Elm Creek Farm in 1859, only to be captured and forcibly returned to Virginia. Sylvia Compson has learned part of Joanna’s story through the journal of her great-great aunt Gerda Bergstrom and related historical research. Now, the discovery of a bundle of Joanna’s old letters reopens the mystery of what happened to the former slave. This story concentrates on Joanna and the Civil War years but also extends to her family and descendents. Once again clues unearthed from styles of quilting and fabrics used in different quilts help Sylvia and her friends track down what really happened during a remote period in history and help drive home Chiaverini’s point that women’s history adds a vital layer to our understanding of the past. This is an outstanding series of novels about a fascinating craft. Quilting, in the hands of Chiaverini, allows us to explore human relationships in all their complexity. --Judy Coon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: The Elm Creek Quilts (Book 14)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416533176
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416533177
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of MRS. LINCOLN'S DRESSMAKER, MRS. LINCOLN'S RIVAL, THE SPYMISTRESS, MRS. GRANT AND MADAME JULE, and other acclaimed historical novels. She also wrote the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as six collections of quilt patterns inspired by her books. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. About her historical fiction, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, "In addition to simply being fascinating stories, these novels go a long way in capturing the texture of life for women, rich and poor, black and white, in those perilous years."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on April 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
During the off season, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson and some of her Elm Creek quilt camp staffers find a small stack of letters stuck in the locked drawer of an old desk. The letters date to the late 1800s and appear to be related to the story brought forth in "The Runaway Quilt," which revealed that a slave named Joanna was once harbored at the Bergstrom estate, just before the Civil War erupted. Sylvia would love to investigate the history behind the letters, but she feels that she's not a good enough researcher. And Summer Sullivan isn't around to help with the project. She's off in Chicago, going to grad school.

In the meantime, we readers are magically transported to 1859, and the day when Joanna is recaptured by slavers and is marched back on foot from Pennsylvania to Virginia. From that point on, the stage is all hers. What we learned in the previous book was merely a vignette, a tiny portion of Joanna's life story. Here, we're exposed to it all. We follow her back to the plantation she came from. We find out how and why Joanna began to quilt herself. We experience her days, both before and after her journey to central Pennsylvania. It's easy for us to like Joanna and champion her cause; and it's easy to want only good things to happen to her. But here it is her fate to be a slave in Virginia and then later, in South Carolina. Imagine facing such difficult times that you can find comfort only in a colleague's basic advice to just "Keep breathin'." Yikes.

As with any slave narrative, even a fictitious one, some of the scenes are heart-breaking at the very least and utterly reprehensible at the most. And yet, we need to be reminded of that part of our American past.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Holly VINE VOICE on June 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've read the Elm Creek books and, with few exceptions, I've liked them all. The Lost Quilter picks up the story of Joanna, the runaway slave from The Runaway Quilt. As with the other Elm Creek books, this one begins with Sylvia discovering a new fact about her family or their quilting. While the beginning and end of the book are about Sylvia trying to find out information about Joanna, the book itself is, Joanna's story.

After her son was born at the Bergstrom farm, Joanna was recaptured and returned to her master in Virginia. She took with her a desire to find her son, her newly found ability to read and her mastery with the needle. Her master sells her to his brother in South Carolina and Joanna begins a new life, finding friends and love. Joanna dreams of returning to Elm Creek and she pieces a quilt, reminiscent of the underground railroad quilts. In it she sews the landmarks she remembers, in hopes that someday it will guide her back to Elm Creek.

Joanna's strength sees her through difficulties with selfish mistresses and the Civil War, and the legacy she leaves behind will finally answer some of Sylvia's questions.

I was prepared to not like this book. I think that, at some point, a story needs to end. While I do think Jennifer Chiaverini runs the risk of weakening a strong story if she insists on giving every possible character their own book, I enjoyed this one. Slave narratives have always fascinated me, and reading the story from Joanna's viewpoint was compelling.

An easy, interesting read.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. D. Mulhern VINE VOICE on April 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Whew- thank goodness Jennifer Chiaverini is back! I agree that this is one of her better books in a few years. "The Quilter's Kitchen" was a complete waste of time, paper and money. But a true story and set of characters is developed for this book. It's still a little short for my tastes, but definitely more than a novella. I miss the original Elm Creek Quilters but I understand that their stories may be done. I would even welcome new stories about the new hires, as long as they were of the same quality as the first books. I think fans of the series will be pleased by this latest in the series.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on March 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson cherishes her special an antique quilt with an incredible history. Some call it "Birds in the Air" based on the design; others call it the "Runaway Quilt" after the runaway slave who sewed it; and finally "the Elm Creek Quilt" where Joanna the slave reached having ridden the Underground Railroad in 1859.

Slave catchers caught Joanna and brought her back to her owner, Josiah Chester in Virginia, but she left behind with the Bergstrom family, her son. Hans and Anneke Bergstrom and Aunt Gerda raised the child as their own; concealing his true identity. In the present Sylvia searches Gerda's diary and Joanna's quilt for clues as to the identity of the runaway slave who stitched a masterpiece.

The best Elm Creeks Quilt tale in years, THE LOST QUILTER answers many of the questions raised in THE RUNAWAY QUILT. The story of Joanna to include her punishment following her recapture makes for a fresh tale with much of her early saga sewed into the quilt. Fans of the series will relish Joanna's tale of bondage and liberty; as she as THE LOST QUILTER wants the freedom for her and her loved ones to soar like the birds in the air of THE RUNAWAY QUILT.

Harriet Klausner
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