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Reading Guides

 

INTRODUCTION

Jennifer Chiaverini's popular Elm Creek Quilts novels weave timeless themes of friendship, family, love, and loss around stories of "strong women who sustain and nourish each other" (Charlotte Holmes, author of Gifts and Other Stories). Each book addresses a personal crisis in each of their lives, and shows how the common, comforting act of quilting helps them to confront painful truths as well as to build dreams for the future.

The Quilter's Apprentice, Jennifer Chiaverini's debut novel, was hailed by the Daily News as "a terrific story about healing and forgiveness." Round Robin, her acclaimed follow-up, continues the story of Sarah McClure, who came to Waterford, Pennsylvania with her husband Matt a few years earlier. Praised by reviewers and authors alike, it tells a moving and uplifting tale of sisterhood and loyalty as Sarah leads the Elm Creek Quilters—Diane, Bonnie, Judy, Gwen, and Agnes—in the creation of a round robin. A quilt created by sewing concentric patchwork to a central block as it is passed around a circle of friends, the round robin is to be a gift to their beloved fellow quilter Sylvia Compson, whose life is haunted by the specter of World War II.

Through their interactions, the intricate threads of the women's individual lives emerge, along with the choices each must make. Weaving together the disparate sections of their crazy-quilt existences, Round Robin explores the complex and enduring bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, and the ways in which we stitch our lives together, piece by imperfect piece.

 

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. Early on in Chapter One, Sylvia, visited by ghosts of the past, reflects that now, "armed with the wisdom of hindsight and regret, she could set everything to rights." What does she mean by that? Does she succeed?
     
  2. Describe a round robin. What is its significance in the creation of a quilt— and in each of the quilter's lives?
     
  3. What are the problems each woman faces? How do Sylvia, Sarah, Diane, Bonnie, Judy, and Gwen attempt to resolve their individual crises? How close do they come to achieving personal fulfillment and long-term happiness?
     
  4. In her heart, Sylvia will always consider the Elm Creek Quilters "family," although they can never replace the loved ones she lost more than half a century earlier. Who is she talking about? Describe her relationships with various members of her flesh-and-blood family, and discuss how they have impacted on her principles and beliefs and shaped her life.
     
  5. In the interview on page seventeen, Gwen says that "quilting speaks to something deep within the woman's soul. Quilting draws us back into a community." Explain what she means by this. What role can and does quilting play in today's society, where "the essential element of human contact has been lost?" What about in the resolution of personal issues?
     
  6. What is the essence of the special bond between Gwen and her daughter Summer? Does it evoke envy in the others? Who, in particular? Speaking of mothers and daughters, what is Sarah's relationship with her own mother like? What is the promise she makes to Sylvia about learning to be tolerant and accepting of a woman she loves but "doesn't like very much?" How does Sylvia help her to learn from her own mistakes? What changes Sarah's attitude toward her mother? What about Sarah's mother's feelings toward her daughter?