A Promise in Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga
My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing!
A baby quilt touches many hearts as it travels from family-to-family and through generations.
After the end of World War II, Clara Kirkpatrick returns from the Women’s Army Corp to deliver a dying soldier’s last wishes: convey his love to his young widow, Mattie, with apologies for the missed life they had planned to share.
Struggling with her own post-war trauma, Clara thinks she’s not prepared to handle the grief of this broken family. Yet upon meeting Mattie, and receiving a baby quilt that will never cuddle the soldier’s baby, Clara vows to honor the sacrifices that family made.
Now a labor and delivery nurse in her rural hometown, Clara wraps each new babe in the gifted quilt and later stitches the child’s name into the cloth. As each new child is welcomed by the quilt, Clara begins to wonder whatever happened to Mattie—and if her own life would ever experience the love of a newborn. Little does she know that she will have the opportunity to re-gift the special quilt—years later and carrying even greater significance than when it was first bestowed.
Holy moly. This book threw me for a loop. The reminiscent style of writing drew me right in and fascinated me with Clara's story and thoughts. I thought the first part was emotional, as Clara shares her experiences as a WWII nurse with her grandson and family. But it was when she returned from war and struggled with returning to normal life that the book really resonated with me. I was reading it during my daughter's swim lessons and had to wipe away tears from beneath my sunglasses- that's a huge indicator of just how good it is- crying in public! What's interesting to me is that I didn't exactly connect with Clara's personality- it was the poignant and profound truths that were revealed through her struggles that brought my feelings and some obviously repressed emotions to the surface. Yeah, my husband chuckled at me when he came into our room as I was finishing the book and literally sobbing- I can't remember the last time I had a good sob. "It's just a book," he said. "That's not why I'm crying!!!" I protested. Themes of birth, death, fear, love, family, service, trust, and faith are all intertwined as a hurting Clara searches for her calling and role in life. She is such a strong person but her vulnerabilities and fears eat at her, all the while she keeps moving forward and finding peace through serving others and providing relief to other hurting victims of war and life. Even through sadness and grief, the book ends with a new light and hope for Clara, which I thought was just so fitting and perfect.
Here are a few quotes from A Promise in Pieces that touched my soul:
I looked for a long moment at this young girl with her stringy mouse hair and her sallow skin and I suddenly saw her for the glorious creature she was, fighting for her child. And I wondered if this was how all children saw us, in this beautiful, bright light.
I cried, lying there, thinking about how little we could offer this woman: just a quilt, with her son's name on it, and how unfair it all was, this loss of something, someone, so great.
But even as I thought this, I remembered how Shane's own mama gave her life away so he could have his, how this had given me a family. and how death sometimes gave birth to something sacred. [...]
Then I sat down with a cup of tea in the rocking chair, the wind still blowing and the curtains still rustling but everything seeming changed now.
And funny how just as you begin to settle, you're made aware of someone's needs. And you're kept always alive, serving each other.
We visited with five of Mildred's friends during the week, five women whose sons had died in the war and we told them of Gareth and "Amazing Grace" and stitched their sons' names. and many of them cried as though, for a moment, someone was holding their baby again and marveling at his beauty and saying, "You did a wonderful job, creating this life. Well done. We celebrate your son."
This is by far my favorite of the Quilts of Love series, and also my favorite use of a quilt in a novel. I can't recommend this book highly enough!!!
(Thank you to Abingdon Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)