Jennifer Chiaverini, THE CROSS-COUNTRY QUILTERSJen. , $21 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-0257-2

The third installment in the popular Elm Creek Quilts series (The Quilter's Apprentice; Round Robin) once again features an ensemble cast of women who learn the importance of friendship and sisterhood by way of their passion for quilting. This time, five women from across the country meet during a weeklong visit to Elm Creek quilting camp in rural Waterford, Pa. Craft and crises intertwine as each woman reveals her private tale of family conflict, marital woes and health concerns. Julia Merchaud is an aging soap star, at camp to acquire quilting skills she falsely claimed to possess in order to secure a film role, while renowned quilter Grace Daniels, recently diagnosed with MS, suffers quilter's block and comes to Elm Creek hoping for inspiration. Megan and Donna are e-mail buddies, both from the Midwest, meeting in person for the first time. Megan, an aerospace engineer, is a recently divorced single mom with a friendless and troubled nine-year-old son, while Donna is escaping her daughter's sudden engagement and the attendant social chores. Rounding out the bunch is happy-go-lucky octogenarian Nana, an Elm Creek veteran intent on making a match for her single grandson, Adam. After a week of bonding and binding, the five women agree to collaborate on a Challenge Quilt, in which each participant must overcome a major obstacle in her life before beginning her section of the project. When they return the following year, each problem has been resolved with ample amounts of sugar and sentiment. Endearing characters and pleasant vignettes render this series as charming and cozy as a favorite blanket. Agent, Maria Massie. (Apr.)