cover image Circle of Quilters

Circle of Quilters

Jennifer Chiaverini. Simon & Schuster, $23 (309pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-6020-6

In a move that may frustrate fans, the eighth episode of Chiaverini's best-selling Elm Creek Quilts series (after The Sugar Camp Quilt) focuses on a roster of new quilting talent, as the rural Pennsylvania quilting retreat loses two of its charmed teachers. Each of the five candidates gets her or his own chapter; they begin variously-Maggie's first quilting find, a busy day for harried mom Karen, chef Anna's panic over a last-minute catering gig, Russ meeting his future wife, a morning argument between Gretchen and her husband-but they all end at Elm Creek Quilts, in an interview with the series's lead characters. Though the pleasures of the novel are many-well-drawn characters, cleverly intersecting plotlines, and Chiaverini's charming sense of humor among them-these may be cold comfort for those eager to find out the latest on Sarah McClure, Sylvia Compson and the rest of the gang, who take on greatly diminished roles. Also potentially maddening: the identity of the two quitting quilters isn't revealed until the end of the book. For new readers, a pedestrian pace and sentimental locale may prove off-putting, but for those with the taste for it, this is a great introduction to the Elm Creek world. It also sets up the coming volumes nicely, bringing fresh blood and new opportunities for drama to this sweet, escapist series.