An entire town is changed within minutes as a deadly tornado hits on a late spring Saturday evening. Buildings are demolished including the high school gym, site of the senior prom. Lives are lost and survivors will never react to a tornado warning in the same nonchalent way again.
Although a fiction story, the determination and spirit evident in the residents of Rawston parallels that of the survivors in real places like Joplin, MO. I felt the author's integration of radio weather updates between the daily actions of the characters built suspense. Descriptions of people seeking shelter anywhere possible at the last moment was also effective. I was probably most moved by the story of Bob Ray, a young man who feels trapped in his marriage. Thinking he's earned some time alone, he stops off at the local tavern, a place where he often earns a few bucks stocking shelves and even dancing for bachelorette parties. When his new drinking friends including a "hottie" he had been flirting with refuse to let him into the closet where they've sought refuge, Rob Ray only has seconds to cram into a bar refrigerator before the winds hit.. As the winds pound debris against the refrigerator, Bob Ray sees the futility of his recent actions. How could he be in such a no-life place while his young family is facing the storm in a rickety trailer? Will he get a second chance?
Among the survivors who immediately take action to help others are Abigail and her new friend Justin. As they work through rubble around the town, Abigail begins to gather fabric fragments - a piece of wedding dress, probably from a friend's dress who was to get married within days, a man's tie, and a scrap most definitely from the local plumber's (and everyone's good friend) Bible cover.
Abigail has no idea why she saves the pieces until her aunt suggests that they start a quilt as a symbol that the town will piece itself back together. The pieces multiply and even Justin, the new carpenter in town, gives a piece of his shirt. As a diverse group of newly homeless find safety and hospitality in Aunt Selma's house, they also find healing in their rudimentary quilt making.
This novel by Carolyn Zane is book one in the Quilts of Love series. As I've visited quilt shops and shows over the past few years, as well as spent hours on quilting blogs, I've learned that there really are heart warming stories that revolve around quilts, so I am sure that this new series will draw upon those legacies. Whether it is a quilt that's survived generations, a new one stitched by a loving grandmother for a new arrival, or one pieced by a group of volunteers for someone whose life has been changed by illness or tragedy, quilts love in every stitch. I like that Carolyn Zane has realized that such stories are worth telling.