A Quilt For Christmas tells the story of Eliza Spooner, a wife and mother who is left at home to tend her children and farm when her husband leaves to fight for the Union in the Civil War. In the opening chapters she is hard at work making a quilt with a down filling that she sends to her husband to keep him warm on the long and dangerous winter nights he spends on the battlefields. She soon receives word that her beloved husband will not return to her and has to find a way to continue on through the loneliness and difficulties a woman faced at the time when the country was in turmoil and being a capable, independent individual was a role left only to men. Eliza finds the friendship and compassion of the women who form her quilting group a priceless gift that allows her to face her grief and heal from the loss of her dear husband. She also recognizes a strength deep within herself she may have never known had her life not been touched by the tragedies she bravely faces.
This book is artful in the way it pieces together memories Eliza has of her husband Will, like the precious quilt tops the characters create. The descriptions of the quilt patterns that she stitches with the help of the ladies in her quilting group are vivid and tie the story together. From the Union flag that keeps Will warm under the December night sky to the Sunshine and Rain pattern of the quilt that graced their wedding bed, each story stitches itself like a new square into the lives of the characters and forms a picture of life during the Civil War for the women who called themselves "war widows" while their men were off fighting. While the novel has a historical setting, the themes of friendship, grief, and the struggle to continue on are timeless and readers will find many characters they can identify with and grow to care for. This novel is a prequel of sorts that deals with the grandmothers of the women in another book by Ms. Dallas called The Persian Pickle Club, and I look forward to reading it as well since I was taken with Eliza, Luzena, Mercy, Missouri Ann and all of the beautifully drawn women in this novel.
Although there is a Christmas scene in the book and the quilt that Eliza makes is intended as a Christmas gift for Will, this novel would be a great read at any time of year. It would also make a lovely gift for anyone who appreciates quilting, historical novels that have romantic themes or for anyone who likes fine storytelling.
I have a few more Christmas themed books that I am going to try and review in the next few days. I love books that are centered on the holidays and enjoy reading them year round, but especially during this time of year. If there are any great holiday books you know of that you'd like to share with me please let me know!