My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Ever since I first read The Quiter’s Apprentice I have been a big fan of the Elm Creek Quilts series. I really enjoyed the characters that Chiaverini had created and looked forward to visiting with them in each new book. Then the author detoured into other time periods and began writing about other quilters, most notably Sylvia’s cousin, Elizabeth, who moved to California during the Prohibition Era and their Civil War era ancestors, Anneka and Gerda. At first, even the books that explored other eras also featured the original Elm Creek Quilters (for example when Sylvia discovers Gerda’s memoirs, the book alternated between Gerda’s story and the story of Sylvia discovering and reacting to this new bit of family history and its implications) but as the series progressed, the author neglected her original characters more and more. I was frustrated by this because A) I loved the original characters so much and B) Chiaverini had left a lot of unresolved plot points dangling in the current timeline: including the integration of several new Elm Creek Quilters, several couples in the process of coming together or growing apart, and Sarah being pregnant with twins.
So I was excited to read The Wedding Quilt because we were finally going to visit with my favorite characters and see what they had been up to. And now that I have finished the book, I am sorry to say that I was very disappointed. The book takes place 25 years in the future when Sarah’s daughter (who we haven’t even met before now) is getting married. As a result, the book bounces back and forth between Sarah getting ready for the wedding and reminiscing about everything that has led up to this point. The jump ahead to the future was incredibly annoying. The little futuristic touches that Chiaverini throws in (from the new kind of gaming console that Diane’s son, Michael, invented to the social changes just came across as silly or preachy or –like much of this book – half baked after-thoughts). The story, itself, is presented in a series of flashback and summaries, usually in the same tone and with the same amount of depth and development that the author uses when recapping information from past books. The birth of Sarah’s twins, the passing of several beloved characters (including Sylvia and Agnes) are all glossed over without any real emotional impact which is almost disrespectful to the characters we have come to care for over the series. And Chiaverini rushes through several romantic relationships with a callous “lets-just-jump-to-the-end” attitude that was just completely unsatisfying and annoying.
If the author had run out of things to say about this particular group of characters but was feeling some pressure to wrap up their stories for the fans, I could maybe begin to understand why the author wrote this half-hearted, perfunctory book but there were several plot points that easily could have been developed into much more satisfying books or integrated with another book to provide a more interest counterpoint between the characters in this timeline and those from an earlier era. (The storyline of Agnes trying to save the historic Union Hall would have made a nice counterpoint to the events of The Union Quilters – which told of how the hall was created – and would have given the author the opportunity to visit with characters from both the past and the present). All in all, I am beginning to get a little disenchanted with the series and if something doesn’t change in the next few books, I have to say that I am more likely to re-read one of the earlier books than pick up one of the new ones.