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The Lost Quilter

The Lost Quilter

An Elm Creek Quilts Novel

(Book #14 of The Elm Creek Quilts)
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Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson treasures an antique quilt called by three names -- Birds in the Air, after its pattern; the Runaway Quilt, after the woman who sewed it; and the Elm Creek Quilt, after the place to which its maker longed to return. That quilter was Joanna, a fugitive slave who traveled by the Underground Railroad to reach safe haven in 1859 at Elm Creek Farm.

Though Joanna's freedom proved short-lived -- she was forcibly returned by slave catchers to Josiah Chester's plantation in Virginia -- she left the Bergstrom family a most precious gift, her son. Hans and Anneke Bergstrom, along with maiden aunt Gerda, raised the boy as their own, and the secret of his identity died with their generation. Now it falls to Sylvia -- drawing upon Gerda's diary and Joanna's quilt -- to connect Joanna's past to present-day Elm Creek Manor.

Just as Joanna could not have foreseen that, generations later, her quilt would become the subject of so much speculation and wonder, Sylvia and her friends never could have imagined the events Joanna witnessed in her lifetime. Punished for her escape by being sold off to her master's brother in Edisto Island, South Carolina, Joanna grieves over the loss of her son and resolves to run again, to reunite with him someday in the free North. Farther south than she has ever been, she nevertheless finds allies, friends, and even love in the slave quarter of Oak Grove, a cotton plantation where her skill with needle and thread soon becomes highly prized.

Through hardship and deprivation, Joanna dreams of freedom and returning to Elm Creek Farm. Determined to remember each landmark on the route north, Joanna pieces a quilt of scraps left over from the household sewing, concealing clues within the meticulous stitches. Later, in service as a seamstress to the new bride of a Confederate officer, Joanna moves on to Charleston, where secrets she keeps will affect the fate of a nation, and her abilities and courage enable her to aid the country and the people she loves most.

The knowledge that scraps can be pieced and sewn into simple lines -- beautiful both in and of themselves and also for what they represent and what they can accomplish -- carries Joanna through dark days. Sustaining herself and her family through ingenuity and art during the Civil War and into Reconstruction, Joanna leaves behind a remarkable artistic legacy that, at last, allows Sylvia to discover the fate of the long-lost quilter.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416533177 | 
  • January 2010
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Video

Author Jennifer Chiaverini Discusses The Quilter’s Homecoming

Jennifer Chiaverini discusses the motivations behind the Elm Creek Quilts series and the quilting community.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jennifer Chiaverini. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson is haunted by a woman she knows only through the story preserved in her great-great aunt’s memoir: Joanna, a fugitive slave who traveled by the Underground Railroad in 1859 to reach safe haven at Elm Creek Farm, the Bergstrom ancestral home. Joanna is captured, thrown back into slavery, and punished for running away by being sold down south to her master's brother, where her needlework skills earn her the place of seamstress to the household. She marries and has a child, yet is separated from her husband and daughter when she is presented as a wedding gift to her new master’s daughter. In Charleston, Joanna becomes a Union spy, as her new mistress’s husband is an influential Confederate officer and Joanna alone can infiltrate his study. After surviving the great Charleston fire of 1861 and staying behind as her husband escapes to join an African-American Union regiment, Joanna flees with her children to Port Royal, where the Union is already entrenched. Sylvia’s discovery of Joanna’s art see more

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