Inspired by Alice in Wonderland
A Union soldier’s wife wonders what happened to the quilt she sent him for Christmas, even as she adjusts to widowhood and creates a new life with other women touched by war.
Dallas takes an interesting look at the lives of women left behind during the Civil War, especially in ambivalent Kansas, and grounds her characters in authentic struggles of love and hate, right and wrong, trespasses and forgiveness.
It is 1864 and Eliza Spooner's husband Will has joined the Kansas volunteers to fight the Confederates, leaving her with their two children and in charge of their home and land. Eliza is confident that he will return home, and she helps pass the months making a special quilt to keep Will warm during his winter months in the army. When the unthinkable happens, she takes in a woman and child who have been left alone and made vulnerable by the war, and she finds solace and camaraderie amongst the women of her quilting group. And when she is asked to help hide an escaped slave, she must decide for herself what is right, and who can she can count on to help her.
“I loved that Eliza stepped out in courage and that she lived her faith by being slow to speak and slow to anger, by showing forgiveness, by offering sanctuary and by not giving in to worldly temptations–without being “too good to be true.” "
Lee Heinrich’s Ornament Mini-Quilt
Explain how society’s restrictions on women affected the way in which various characters were able to cope with the effects of the war. What were some things they were prevented from doing, or expected to do? How did they respond to these restrictions and expectations?
On page 14, Missouri Ann says, “Mourning’s for rich folks.” What does she mean by this? How do we see the way in which the characters’ economic situations shape their lives during and after the war?
Were you surprised when Eliza decided to take Clara to Mercy Eagle’s home to hide her? What did you think would happen to Clara?
On page 154, Eliza tells John, “With all that has happened these past years, we cannot be shackled by the properties of grief as we once were. We must take advantage of life, because it is so fragile.” What are some examples of different characters coping with their grief while also working to move forward? How do the different women approach their newfound situations?
On page 160, Ettie describes Missouri Ann as being “like a bit of yellow silk in an overalls quilt.” How does quilting function to provide or reflect a social framework for the characters in the story?
How does the Stars and Stripes quilt create a constant thread throughout the story?
What are key moments when you noticed a shift in the relationship between Eliza and Daniel?
On page 205, Ettie says, “They’re always Confederates.” This is an attitude that Davy expresses as well. How did you react to Davy’s strong stance against having Daniel on the farm? What affect did you think it would have? Were you surprised when he changed his mind?
Were you surprised by the way things turned out for each of the women after the war? Which character’s story were you most surprised by? Which turned out as you would have expected?
Did your opinions of any of the characters change throughout the course of the novel? How so?
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