Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Synopsis from Barbour Books: Enter a historic Nebraskan prison where three women find betrayal, love, and ultimate truth. Jane Prescott is serving a ten-year sentence for murder. Can a broken spirit be healed behind bars? Matron Mamie Dawson feels called to help the wounded women in her charge. Will a guard’s attentions keep her from her mission? Warden’s wife Ellen Sullivan has changed her preconceptions about these female prisoners. Will it be enough to save her from a life-or-death situation? Will the cryptic quilt connecting their lives expose the truth of one woman’s past and ensure a better future for them all?
Review: The Key on the Quilt is the first novel in Stephanie Grace Whitson's new series The Quilt Chronicles. As the debut book, we are introduced to a range of characters who will likely make appearances in the upcoming novels. The primary focus of The Key On the Quilt is Jane Prescott, an imprisoned mother with a tragic past. Her acquaintances in prison (inmates and free women) offer additional plots, particularly Mamie Dawson and Ellen Sullivan. The story is told from several different perspectives, which allows us to see 19th century prison life from a variety of angles. Interestingly, the second half of the novel suddenly introduces Jane's daughter Rose as a main character. The glimpse into Rose's emotions and life added extra depth to the novel, and I would have enjoyed more opportunities to read the story from her perspective.
The setting of The Key on the Quilt is the most notable element of the novel. Whitson demonstrates skill in relaying historical details through her description of the women's ward and the depiction of prison life.The backdrop of a prison sounds reminiscent of Dickens, but the plot is much more heartwarming and ultimately uplifting. Whitson introduces some difficult topics, but illustrates the power of faith and love in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Jane Prescott is truly an inspiring character from the beginning of the novel to the end. Hopefully future novels will feature Jane's continuing story. I would have been more satisfied with the ending if it had featured a short epilogue or at least a few more pages.
I also enjoyed Mamie's character and her story, which was like a charming novella integrated into the pages of a full novel. Ellen Sullivan is an integral part of the novel, but I did not feel impacted by reading her point-of-view. Some of her interactions with her husband were a bit "mushy" for my taste; there were some scenes that I feel were unnecessary. Despite feeling distracted by multiple perspectives, I would recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction. The Key on the Quilt is an enjoyable and worthwhile read with a memorable plot.
The Key on the Quilt will be released on March 1, 2012. For now, you can read a chapter Here.