- Author: Melody Carlson
- Publisher: Revell
- Available Now
- Synopsis: Vera, a widow and retired interior designer, finds herself tasked with making a large quilt for a new acquaintance– two weeks before Christmas! To complete the project on time, she enlists the help of three women: Tasha, Eleanor and Beverly.
- Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. Opinions conveyed are my own.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God has forgiven you.Eph. 4:32
Overt Christian references are definitely on the light side in this novella; there is one line about Jesus’ sacrifice, tying back to the true meaning of Christmas. That said, forgiveness plays an important role in the plot line and there’s a general moment of redemption, although it isn’t specifically tied to relationship with Jesus. Overall, this felt more like a family Christmas movie– “clean” and sweet, but light on the faith content.
What I Liked
Melody Carlson has, I believe, a background in interior design– and it’s a topic she frequently draws upon in her writing. In fact, there’s another interior designer named Vera in her 86 Bloomberg Place series. (I’m pretty sure they’re two different people, because the one in the book series is really mean; with “about 250 books” in print, it’s unsurprising that first names will get recycled). I do enjoy reading those design details, like spritzing an artificial garland with pine scent.
The quilting elements were pretty fun. Ordinarily, I would not be interested in a book about quilting, but it worked for me in a short book, and because the quilting was gently interspersed with the friendship plot line.
Likewise, the Christmastime setting was great. While the holiday elements were pretty standard, they were fun to read, and the intro scene about Vera’s holiday traditions did catch my attention.
I enjoyed getting to know the four ladies in the quilting circle and I liked watching their friendship develop. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the book as much, when I realized that it was more a friendship story, rather than a romance, but the story was fun. I also liked reading the various perspectives. Vera was the main character, but we also got chapters from two other perspectives.
Treatment of Generosity (SPOILERS)
In the novel, the Albrights, who recently emigrated from Ireland to the United States, are experiencing great financial hardship. Mrs. Albright confides to one of the ladies that they haven’t been able to purchase furniture and another of the quilters comes up with the plan to help the family.
Speaking as someone who has been in need (and who has also given), there were elements I liked and disliked about this part of the theme:
- I liked that it was clear that the Albrights wanted furniture. While the characters did assume that the Albrights couldn’t afford furniture, it was later established that the parents could not buy it. This is an important detail, because some people (myself included) do use lawn furniture decoratively.
- I liked that the characters were sensitive in terms of not wanting to treat people like “charity.” In my own experience, this happens pretty frequently— when people see each other as opportunities to do a good deed, rather than actual people.
- With that said, I felt that the furniture aspect still felt just a little bit like charity, because the Albrights did not have a say in what they received. While I can appreciate that the quilters wanted to surprise the family, I think that the family would be obligated to accept what was given, because of the surprise. And, while I’m painfully aware of the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers,” it’s one that I strongly disagree with. Part of human dignity is allowing that choice. With that said, this is one of those cases where my argument is going beyond the actual breadth of the book. I just feel the need to address this theme, since giving is so big in the book.
- On the flip side, though, I did really appreciate that the emphasis is on meeting the family’s need, not on how awesome the givers are. And I’m glad that the furniture was nice and practically new, not a hodgepodge of gross old stuff—and that it was needed. Plus, I liked that we saw a friendship developing between the characters, not just one person giving to another.
All in all, I feel that the portrayal of generosity was pretty solid.
Content Notes / Respectful Critique
There’s one use of the word “word,” as an exclamatory.
My other content notes feel potentially spoiler-y, mostly just because this is such a short book, so SPOILERS BELOW.
I felt that the narration was unfair to Eleanor, at points. While Eleanor is difficult to get along with, I felt that some of her frustrations were justified. For instance, Vera brings four-year-old Fiona to the quilting circle and Fiona breaks a special teacup. True, Eleanor did insist on hosting the group, but I did feel like Fiona maybe didn’t have to be at the meeting– or her presence could have been clarified/anticipated.
Or when Eleanor points out that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. The other women laugh at her and even scoff when she says that she doesn’t want her son having sweets delivered to him. While her son is an adult, he does live in Eleanor’s house, and I feel that she has the right to that boundary.
Again, I don’t feel the character is pleasant and she does choose to bring a lot of pain on herself unnecessarily, but I also felt the other characters seemed a bit entitled, at times (which is a pattern I noticed in another book by this author).
I am fond of Christmas books and books by Melody Carlson, so I enjoyed reading A Quilt for Christmas. This was a sweet book with no real “content concerns,” though I do feel the theme of generosity (in any books) merits discernment.