A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas, review by Shirley Wells
“Helping each other is what friends do.” This one simple but oh-so-true statement could be considered the theme that empowers both The Persian Pickle Club and A Quilt for Christmas. On the 20th anniversary of its publication, The Persian Pickle Club remains a beloved classic. And now author Sandra Dallas has written a prequel to it; A Quilt for Christmas is set in the same Western Kansas community and is peopled with the grandmothers of the original characters. Quilting together binds the circles of friends in both books, friends whose loyal support of each other in times of joy and sorrow endears them to each other and to us.
A married man with two children, Will Spooner joins the Kansas Volunteers in 1864 and sets out to roust the Confederate Rebels. His wife Eliza is optimistic that the Union Army will be victorious and her husband will soon return to their farm. But in his absence, it is up to her to keep the household running, an arduous task in even the best of times. When she befriends another “war widow” (women whose husbands are away fighting in the Civil War) and takes Missouri Ann into her home, Eliza doesn't realize what she's taking on. Eliza benefits from the assistance and companionship Missouri Ann provides, but she is also faced with the troubles her friend's in-laws bring into her world. Both women gain strength and independence through their ordeals, but it is when Eliza agrees to assist another young woman, this one trying to escape slavery, that she takes on her most dangerous challenge.
The Christmas quilt of the title is the patriotic quilt that Eliza makes and sends to her absent husband. Thinking of the comfort it may bring to him provides comfort to her as well. When the quilt is returned by a man she never expected to encounter, Eliza's world is changed yet again.
With her characteristic warmth and engaging style, Sandra Dallas has once again given us a touching story celebrating female friendships.