Author: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, October 2014
I usually read several Christmas-themed books, but this year I only found one that fit my mood. This one isn’t actually about Christmas, but it is warm and loving and there is a Christmas quilt involved.
The year is 1864. Eliza Spooner and her two children are alone on their Kansas farm. Their husband and father is off with the Union army. Eliza is not the only one from their small community who has sacrificed the man of the family. All the women in Eliza’s quilt group are war widows.
The women in the quilt group have become very close, probably because of the stress and loneliness they all have in common. They all agree that Eliza is the best quilter. Eliza has always given special quilts as gifts on various occasions. As a Christmas gift for her husband, Eliza makes a patriotic quilt and mails it to her husband somewhere in Kentucky.
The fact that Eliza and the other women have time to make quilts astonishes me. It’s their responsibility to make sure everything gets done on the farm. There is no money to pay for the few men who are still around, so the women and children are forced to do whatever they can. Somehow Eliza manages to get the crops in. She also takes in a young woman, a friend and fellow quilter, along with the women’s baby daughter. A terrifying experience occurs when Eliza take in and hides a freed ex-slave who has a prize on her head. And then, there is a ex-soldier who fought for the “enemy.”
I loved all the talk about the quilts. I don’t quilt much anymore, but I do love to look at them, listen to talk about them and do a little research. I looked for patriotic quilts made during this time period. The pictures above came from the Belfast Historical Society and Museum. The quilts were made in 1864, the same year as the book’s time period. The quilts were sent to a Union hospital.
The perspective of this book worked for me. My husband is a Civil War history “nut” so I hear a lot about the battles, etc. It was good to take a look at what happened back home where the women were left to handle all the things the men had been doing, plus their own duties. It was a harsh life and I certainly appreciate the sacrifices made by these women and children who kept everything going at home.
This was a lovely and well-written story. Of course, Sandra Dallas is a superb storyteller. If you haven’t read one of her stories, give this one a try.