Jennifer Chiaverini, . . Simon & Schuster, $22 (327pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-3615-7

Even a newcomer to the popular Elm Creek Quilts series will quickly get caught up in the lives of the ladies who stitch. Sylvia Compson, the doyenne of the quilters who teach their art at the Elm Creek Quilt Camp, has married Andrew Cooper—an occasion of joy, with one hitch. The surprise Christmas Eve wedding meant Sylvia's friends didn't have time to craft the requisite bridal quilt. Will 140 six-inch blocks arrive by April 1? Sarah McClure is betting they will, but her husband, Matt, bets two weeks of breakfast in bed that Sarah can't keep a secret for three months. Not all the tension in the book is quite so mellow, though. Summer Sullivan has to decide how to define being her own woman. Does it mean staying in Waterford with the quilters or following her love, Jeremy, when he finishes graduate school? And Bonnie Markham has big woes: her fabric shop, Grandma's Attic, is running in the red, and her husband, Craig, has been conniving with evil realtor Greg Krolich to push her over the edge. This is the modern world, with cell phones and cybersex, but Chiaverini's quilting women are also a world apart. They feel one another's joys and griefs acutely; their lives are stitched together. The author's style is clean, and almost YA simple, and her dialogue is uninspired. Yet she intensifies the story's texture by retelling key scenes from multiple points of view, and along the way she enriches the reader's awareness of quilting's importance as a female art form and a source of deep common bonds. Agent, Mary Massie. (Apr.)