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The Runaway Quilt

The Runaway Quilt

An Elm Creek Quilts Novel

  • reading group guide
After learning of her family’s ties to the slaveholding South, Sylvia Compson scours her attic for clues and discovers a window into the world of her ancestors: the memoir of her great-grandfather’s spinster sister,

Gerda Bergstrom. Gerda’s memoir chronicles the founding of Elm Creek Manor and the tumultuous years when Hans, Anneke, and Gerda Bergstrom sheltered fugitive slaves within its walls, using quilts as a signal of sanctuary. But little did the staunchly abolitionist Gerda know that a traitor was among them, placing the Bergstroms in grave danger and leading to family discord, betrayal, and a secret held for generations.

With the help of the Elm Creek Quilters and clues hidden within antique quilts discovered in the manor’s attic, Sylvia stitches together the pieces of her past and decodes the true nature of the Bergstrom legacy.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451606096 | 
  • October 2010
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

When her sister, Claudia, died childless at the age of seventy-seven, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson became the last living descendant of Hans and Anneke Bergstrom and the sole heir to what remained of their fortune. Or so she had thought. She had certainly searched long and hard enough for someone else who could assume responsibility of Elm Creek Manor, for as difficult as it was to believe now, at the time she had thought the estate in rural central Pennsylvania too full of unhappy memories to become her home again. Her lawyer had told her she was the sole heir, an opinion corroborated by her private detective.

Now she... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Runaway Quilt 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.


In The Runaway Quilt, Jennifer Chiaverini returns to Elm Creek Manor and the Bergstrom family lineage.

After Sylvia Bergstrom Compson lectures at a quilt guild meeting in South Carolina, a former Elm Creek Quilts camper approaches her and asks her to examine a very old and unique quilt that had been in her family for generations. When Sylvia discovers that the patterns sewn into the quilt contain an unmistakable image of Elm Creek Manor, she realizes that there may be more to her family’s antebellum history than she’s been told. Sylvia searches the attic of Elm Creek Manor, hoping for answers, and she unearths three more quilts as well as the journal of Gerda Bergstrom. Gerda was the spinster sister of family patriarch Hans, and the pages of her memoir contain a story Sylvia never could have imagined. The story illuminates the true legacy of the Bergstrom family and the realities of their connection to the Underground Railroad, giving Sylvia and the reader insight into a period of history frau see more

About the Author

Jennifer Chiaverini
Photograph © Steve Garfinkel

Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaveriniis the author of the New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series, five collections of quilt projects, and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, her most recent historical novel. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and sons in Madison, Wisconsin.




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