Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Before The Jane Austen Book Club and The Friday Night Knitting Club, there was How to Make an American Quilt, in which each chapter recounts the life of a member of the Grasse, California, quilting bee.  The leader is Anna, a black woman taken in, while an unwed mother-to-be, by the mother of Hy and Glady Joe, back when they were young girls.  Now all three women are in their twilight years, Hy having moved in with Glady Joe, even after having a fling with Glady Joe's husband while her own husband was dying.  Glady Joe's husband, now deceased also, is not the only unfaithful one, however.  Em's husband Dean is having an affair with the very reserved Constance, and Em knows that it's not his first affair.  This profligate husband-sharing causes some strife within the quilting bee, but basically this is a series of interwoven stories with no real plot.  The author makes a valiant attempt to use several different quilt patterns, including the patchwork "crazy quilt," as metaphors for the lives of these women, but the similarities seemed a little forced to me.  Sophia was a diver who met Preston while he was a college student.  They both had dreams of leading nontraditional lives, traveling the world, but the arrival of a daughter forces them to settle down.  Perhaps one can draw a comparison between all of these unplanned lives and the crazy quilt.  Anna's daughter Marianna, is the only one who really breaks out of the mold.  College-educated, she lived in Paris for a time, taking lovers both black and white, before finally returning to Grasse.  The mood that pervades the book is one of quiet contentment, with a sharing and acceptance of all the different paths that the bee members followed to reach this state.

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