Author: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: St. Martins Press, 1998
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Public Library
My Rating: B
I’ve had this book on my To-Read list for a couple of years. Something happened that made me push the book to the top and prompted me to read it. That something was a quilt I received from my sister Kaye.
That beautiful quilt is pictured below and, it has a story. Our mother was quite the quilter. Whenever she and I traveled we stopped at local quilt shops and almost always bought fabric. We were visiting an Amish store in Shipshewana, Indiana when she saw a beautiful wall quilt and decided she would buy the fabric and make one just like it.
Unfortunately Mom’s health kept her from using that fabric. When mom died Kaye was just beginning to quilt. She was the right one to inherit that special fabric. Kaye joined a quilt group that meets weekly. This group helped Kaye hone her skills in addition to so much more.
Kaye has told me so much about the women in her quilt group that I feel as if I also know them. The dynamics that exist among women in a quilt group are amazing. I’ve witnessed it personally and so has my sister. And now that I’ve read The Persian Pickle Club, I’ve witnessed those dynamics in print.
The story takes place in Harveyville, Kansas during the 1930s. It’s told by Quennie Bean, a young farm wife. She also belongs to a weekly quilt group called the Persian Pickle Club. [Persian Pickle is another name for paisley fabric.] Fabric is very scarce among most of these women. There is only one woman who can afford to buy fabric in a store straight off the bolt. Their quilts are made with scraps from clothing or feed sacks or any fabric they can find.
The interactions among the women reminded me of a group of women my mother met with weekly back in the 1940s. Both sets of women were kind, respectful and very considerate even though they knew each other well enough to know the faults of each one. They were also very loyal to each other.
The Persian Pickle Club is a story about more than just quilting. There’s a new young wife in town who doesn’t exactly fit in. She also asks lots of questions. A family of squatters is discovered living on the Bean farm. And then there is a body buried by the side of a road. Who buried him there and how did he die? Yes, there was plenty in this lovely book to keep me interested.
Back to the story of my sister and my beautiful new quilt. My sister decided to take Mom’s special fabric and make a quilt for me. She showed it to me last Spring when she was about two-thirds done with it. I had tears in my eyes from both the sentiment and the beauty.
Then this summer it was discovered that my sister had cancer. Within weeks she was in surgery. Her surgeon and oncologist declared her cancer-free but, in order to increase the odds that the cancer would not return, she began chemo-therapy. She’s on a program that will spread out over six months. She’s past the half-way mark now and doing well.
My sister is tough in many ways, as legions of her former sixth-grade students will tell you. I knew she would lick the cancer thing. Frankly, I wasn’t even thinking about the quilt, but Kaye was. Through all the surgery, recovery, and now chemo, she just kept going with the quilt. As I saw among the women in The Persian Pickle Club, adversary doesn’t keep a quilter from charging forward. The quilt arrived in time for my birthday! I’m at the point where I’m still admiring it’s beauty. I won‘t let anyone touch it or use it. Someday, however, I’ll pull it over me as I take a nap and think about all the love and hard work that went into my new treasure.