Stephanie Grace Whitson has done it again. She has written another novel that has captivated my mind and has left me wanting more. I have read Sixteen Brides and Unbridled Dreams, both books capturing my heart. So when I saw The Key on the Quilt, the first book in The Quilt Chronicles series, I grabbed it up fast, brewed me a cup of coffee, wrapped myself in my great-grandmother's quilt, and began reading.
The story, set around a late-1800s penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska, is about three women who come from three very different backgrounds. Each woman comes to realize her true role, her true identity as danger threatens their existence.
The main character, Jane, is an inmate. Throughout the story, we see how she works hard to just "do her time" by creating a cocoon around herself, barely speaking to anyone, and just going through the motions each day. She is forced, though, to show her true heart to not only the other inmates, but also to the prison matron, the warden, and his wife. We see how she struggles with her past, tries to hide from her present, and is afraid to look towards the future.
Then we see the story through the eyes of the prison matron, Mamie. She came to this job following her heart's calling after a tent revival. At first she struggles with how she is to minister to the women the rest of the world consider less-than-human. After much prayer and prioritizing the needs of the inmates, she begins a journey of true service, meeting people where they are and addressing individual needs. And we get a bonus story through a very unlikely friendship that teeters on a deeper relationship.
Finally we get see all of these events through the eyes of the warden's wife, Ellen. She's a southern, well-to-do woman who married a yankee man who had to work hard for what they had. He uproots her well-established life and moves the family to Lincoln. She, too, struggles with her present. What is expected of her as a warden's wife? What does a gentle southern lady like herself supposed to do with women who lie, steal, and kill their way into a prison? Through her relationship with Mamie and with quite a few dangerous events with Jane, Ellen comes to see her true purpose.
This was a great read. The characters, much like the quilts that are prominent throughout the story, weave in and out of each other's lives, eventually making a beautiful story of friendship, love, forgiveness, and purpose. Many times I questioned the title of the book, thinking it should have been named Grace Notes, but just like a quilt, the completed project reveals a much grander story than just the individual pieces.
Stephanie Grace Whitson's second book of this series comes out in the Spring of 2013. I can't wait to see how else she weaves the stories of complicated women into beautiful servants of the Lord.