cover image Round Robin

Round Robin

Jennifer Chiaverini. Simon & Schuster, $20 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-684-86892-9

The Elm Street quilters return in this sequel to the popular The Quilter's Apprentice, and again a round-robin quilt is made collaboratively by a group of friends, each contributing a border of patchwork around a central block. The apt metaphor is used once more to share the individual stories and bonds of friendship of the club members. Sarah McClure helps her aging friend Sylvia Compson run a quilting school from Sylvia's large manor house in the small town of Waterford, Pa. The quilters decide to surprise Sylvia with a round robin, and in passing the work-in-progress to one another, their stories unfold. Sarah struggles with her cold and critical mother and with her husband's identity crisis, while overachiever Gwen must accept that her daughter wants to work at the quilt store rather than attend graduate school. Supermom Diane copes with her teenage son, a friendless delinquent whose troubles disappear as soon as the family puts a skateboard ramp in their backyard. Bonnie discovers that her husband is conducting a romance over the Internet. In the most complicated and most strained vignette, Judy, a Vietnamese-American professor of computer science, receives a letter from an American half-sister she never knew of, reporting that their biological father, who abandoned Judy and her mother in Vietnam, is dying. Rounding out the ensemble is Sylvia, whose health is deteriorating but who gleans new hope when an old flame visits. By the end of this sugary story, not only have the Elm Street ladies stitched a beautiful quilt, but they've also learned to rely on and help each other. The tale is neatly concluded on a tender if sentimental note: ""true friends are the most precious gift."" Agent, Maria Massie. 3-city author tour. (Apr.)