A week after Uncle Jacob's death, Abel Wright came to pay his respects. Dorothea Granger took him to the grave and stood some distance away while he bowed his head in silent prayer. Then he looked up and said, "I have something to tell you and your folks."
History is thick with secrets in The Sugar Camp Quilt, seventh in the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series from bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini. Set in Creek's Crossing, Pennsylvania, in the years leading up to the Civil War, the story begins with friends and neighbors taking sides in the abolitionist debate, and as events unfold, an ex-traordinary young heroine passes from innocence to wisdom against the harrowing backdrop of the American struggle over slavery.
A dutiful daughter and niece, Dorothea Granger finds her dreams of furthering her education thwarted by the needs of home. A gifted quilter, she tragically loses her hope chest in a flood. A superior student, she is promoted from pupil to teacher -- only to lose her position to the privileged son of a town benefactor. But the ultimate test of her courage and convictions comes with the death of her stern uncle Jacob, who inexplicably had asked Dorothea to stitch him a quilt with four unusual patterns of his own design. After he meets with a violent end, Dorothea discovers that the quilt contains hidden clues to guide runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. Emboldened by the revelations about her uncle's bravery, Dorothea resolves to continue his dangerous work. Armed with the Sugar Camp Quilt and its mysterious symbols, she must evade slavecatchers and outwit unscrupulous neighbors, embarking upon a heroic journey that allows her to discover her own courage and resourcefulness -- unsuspected qualities that may win her the heart of the best man she has ever known.
Told with Jennifer Chiaverini's trademark historical suspense, The Sugar Camp Quilt blends danger, moral courage, romance, and hope into a novel of antebellum America whose lessons resonate with timeless honesty.
In 1849, 19-year-old Dorothea Granger and her strongly abolitionist parents are at the mercy of Uncle Jacob, a bitter, hard-driving man with a tragic past. Dorothea has just been removed from her teaching job to make way for the dour Mr. Nelson. Jacob puts Dorothea to work on a quilt of his design and is adamant that she make it according to his peculiar specifications. When Jacob is found dead, the Grangers are even more stunned to learn that his nearby Sugar Camp, site of his famous maple syrup operation, has doubled as a station in the Underground Railroad. Dorothea realizes that her quilt is a map to the next station and bravely continues her uncle's work, despite the great peril to herself and the runaway slaves she is helping. Steeped in rich period detail and gentle romance, this seventh entry in Chiaverini's "Elm Creek Quilts" series wonderfully captures the courage of the Underground Railroad supporters and the runaways who risked everything to find freedom. Recommended for most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Simon & Schuster
March 14, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
Chapter One: 1849
"Abel Wright intends to purchase his wife's freedom before the month is out," Dorothea's father said to Uncle Jacob.
"At long last," Dorothea's mother declared. "If Abel has raised the money he must do it quickly, before her owner can change his mind again. You will go with him, of course?"
Robert Granger nodded. They had spoken of this occasion often and had agreed that Robert ought to accompany Mr. Wright south to Virginia, both to share the work of driving the horses and to discourage unscrupulous interlopers. The abolitionist newspapers told of proslavery men who became so incensed at the sight of a newly freed slave that they would seize him and sell him back into slavery. Not even Mr. Wright was safe from their ilk, for all that he had never been a slave. If anything, enslaving him would bring them even greater pleasure.
Uncle Jacob's face bore the grim expression that Dorothea likened to a block of limestone. "You can't think of leaving in the middle of harvest."
"Abel needs to leave at sunup," Robert explained apologetically, as if humility would protect him from Uncle Jacob's wrath.
"Surely he can wait a few weeks until the crops are in."
"He said he can't. He'll go alone rather than wait for me."
"Then let him go alone," glowered Uncle Jacob. "Hasn't he done so often enough to sell that cheese of his?"
"This time is different," said Robert. "He will be exchanging a considerable amount of money for the person of his wife."
"Wright raises goats. He likely has more goats than corn on his place. He can afford to leave his farm during the harvest. We can't."
Dorothea waited for her uncle to announce yet another visit to his lawyer. The implication was, of course, that he intended to change his will, and not in favor of his only living relatives. Dorothea waited, but Uncle Jacob said nothing more until mealtime gave way to evening chores. As they cleared the table, Dorothea's mother remarked that Uncle Jacob had not expressly forbidden Robert to go, which in his case was almost the same as giving his blessing.
"According to that logic," Dorothea replied, "if I tell my pupils not to put a bent pin on my chair, what I really mean is that I would prefer a nail."
"Your pupils have far too much affection for you to do either," said Lorena, deliberately missing the point. They both knew she was putting her brother's obvious disapproval in a better light than it deserved. Dorothea knew her uncle would have expressly forbidden the journey for anyone but Abel Wright. Uncle Jacob had no friends, but he respected Mr. Wright for his independence, thrift, and industriousness, qualities he would have admired in himself if doing so would not have occasioned the sin of vanity.
Uncle Jacob had never declared whether he was for or against slavery, at least not in Dorothea's presence. According to Lorena, Uncle Jacob's long-deceased wife had been a Quaker and a passionate abolitionist, but he never spoke of her and Dorothea had no idea whether he shared her views. Still, she suspected her uncle's objections to the journey had nothing to do with his moral position on the subject of slavery and everything to do with the pragmatics of farming. Despite Mr. Wright's reasonable urgency to free his wife from bondage, Uncle Jacob likely could not comprehend how a sensible farmer could take off on any errand when the most important work of the year needed to be done. Of course, Uncle Jacob knew all too well that his sister's husband was not a sensible farmer. If he had been, Uncle Jacob would not have been obligated by the ties of family and Christian charity to take in his sister's family after they lost their own farm.
Later that night, Dorothea asked her father if she might accompany them, but her father said this particular errand was too dangerous for a girl of nineteen.
"But Mr. Wright has made the trip so many times," protested Dorothea.
"You are needed at home," said Uncle Jacob. "Already I will have to hire hands to make up for your father's absence. I will not hire kitchen help, too."
Even without Lorena's look of warning, Dorothea knew better than to protest. Her uncle had not even looked up from his Bible as he spoke, but any interruption of his nightly devotion was unusual enough to reveal the strength of his feeling on the subject.
Robert left for the Wright farm as soon as the sky had lightened enough for safe travel. Though the sun had not yet risen, Uncle Jacob was already at work in the barn, but he did not break away from his chores to wish his brother-in-law a safe journey. Lorena had packed the horse's rucksacks with so much food that they strained at the seams, and Robert thanked his wife for providing enough to eat for a month of sightseeing. Mother and daughter smiled at his joke, for they knew he intended to make the journey as swiftly as possible. They kissed him and made him promise to take care, then followed him down to the Creek's Crossing road, where they stood and watched until horse and rider disappeared into the cool, graying mists that clung to the hills south of the farm.