Sandra Dallas’ novel, A Quilt for Christmas, takes place in Kansas in 1864. Eliza Spooner is trying to keep the farm together with her two children while her husband is away fighting for the Union. An expert quilter, Eliza decides to make a quilt for her husband’s Christmas present to keep him warm and remind him of her love.
When Eliza’s friend, Missouri Ann, learns that her own husband has died, Eliza invites Missouri Ann and her daughter to stay with her in order to rescue them from Missouri’s abusive in-laws.
Then the unthinkable happens. Eliza receives news that Will has also died. She hopes he was buried in her quilt. Her children and her quilting group help bear her through her grief.
Eliza’s beliefs are put to the test when she is asked to shelter an escaped slave. She has already given a husband to the war: isn’t that enough? And what about the danger to her children? Though Kansas is a Union state, slave catchers in pursuit of a reward could be dangerous to anyone in their way.
As the war ends, soldiers in various states of need show up at her door occasionally, asking for a meal or permission to sleep in the barn overnight. Then one day a soldier shows up with Will’s quilt with the surprising, and at first disconcerting, story of what happened to it after Will died.
I thought this was a very well-written book. The story shows the hardships women went through alone on a farm in that time. Not only did they have to deal with their husbands’ absence while fighting or his death, they had all the responsibility of the farm on their shoulders. Even though the North won the war, and the widows and wives received some compensation, many lived in poverty. Yet they were generous, helping others in need as much as they could.
I really liked Eliza’s character and could empathize with her struggles..
I appreciated the emphasis in the last few chapters on forgiveness. Eliza’s son is full of hatred against “Johnnies” because they killed his father. But Eliza tries to teach him that the war is over and they are one nation now.
I also appreciated the talk that, even though only men could fight, there was much women could do to help after all.
Though there is talk of God in the book, I wouldn’t call this Christian fiction. One reason is that Eliza credits her dead husband with watching over her. Another is that, in the talk of forgiveness, nothing is brought up about God’s forgiveness or expectation that we forgive others.
All in all, it was a very good book.