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      Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks
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Get our free guide to Geraldine Brooks' novel of one courageous woman's struggle to survive in the year of the plague.

 
         

 

 

INTRODUCTION

The third novel in Jennifer Chiaverini's acclaimed series introduces a group of cross-country quilters: Julia, Megan, Donna, Grace, and Vinnie. These five friends, who are separated by great distances, have made a promise to one another to complete a challenge quilt in one year's time.

As the story begins, each woman is coping with her own set of problems. Julia, star of a long-running prime-time drama, finds herself without a job for the first time in over twenty years. Megan is an aerospace engineer trying to be everything to her rebellious son after her husband walked out. The mother of two teenaged girls, Donna is stunned when one daughter announces she's quitting school to get married. Grace is a celebrated quilt artist facing a severe setback to her health and determined to live life on her own terms. At eighty-two, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, Vinnie has journeyed a long way from the lonely young orphan of the wartime years. And now they have set themselves a special challenge: Creating a quilt out of equal shares of a piece of fabric, with the understanding that they will all meet at the Elm Creek Quilt Camp the following year to sew the disparate sections into a single quilt. There is one caveat: No one can begin work on her block until she has made an effort to confront her troubles and to achieve a personal objective.

Despite differences in age, race, and background, and although their close bond is tested by the demands of their individual lives, the women's love of quilting and affection for one another unite them. The quilt they create becomes a symbol of the threads that hold their lives together—a glorious collage of love, loyalty, and acceptance that attests to the strength of a friendship that can transcend any obstacle.

 

ABOUT JENNIFER CHIAVERINI

Jennifer Chiaverini is the author of The Quilter's Apprentice, Round Robin, The Cross-Country Quilters, The Runaway Quilt, and The Quilter's Legacy (all available in Plume editions). She lives with her family in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. This third book in the series introduces a brand new cast of characters. How did you feel about this? Did they draw you in to their special worlds? Were you sympathetic to their problems? Did you find yourself rooting for anyone in particular?
     
  2. As she did in her second novel, Round Robin, Jennifer Chiaverini tells her story from many alternating points of view. Did this work for you? In what ways did you feel it did or did not?
     
  3. What is a challenge quilt? Why does it have that name? How does it impact on the lives of the five women?
     
  4. Discuss the unique problems facing Julia, Megan, Donna, Grace, and Vinnie at the beginning of the book. How does each woman cope with her particular issue? Have they taken steps toward resolution by story's end? Explain.
     
  5. What do these cross-country friends believe they will accomplish by going to quilting camp at this juncture in their lives? How do they feel about Sylvia? How does she feel about them?
     
  6. Vinnie begins each morning with a conversation with God. Why does she do this? Would you characterize her as a religious woman? Spiritual? She clearly misses her beloved Sam, but also loves spending time with her children and grandchildren. Would you say that family, which was "all they had, and all that truly mattered," is the driving force in Vinnie's life? What does she do to demonstrate this? How do her actions affect the others?
     
  7. Do you think Grace is the bravest of all the women, because of her fierce determination in the face of a terrible health problem? Or are they all courageous in their own ways?
     
  8. How does the challenge quilt come to symbolize the friends' disparate lives? Do they meet the goals they set for themselves?
     
  9. In what ways is their friendship tested? What happens to draw them closer? What, ultimately, unites them?