A Promise in Pieces
By Emily T. Wierenga
Published by Abingdon Press
Back Cover: 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.
REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy I received from the book club Network www.bookfun.org . I’m grateful for the opportunity to read a powerful and moving novel giving me a glimpse into how war affects every aspect of life. It changes people who fight in battle and those left behind who are praying and waiting for their loved ones to return. I liked how the author wrote this novel in first person thru the eyes of Clara Wilson.
This novel kicks off on December 7th, right after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The novel talks about a brave women named, Clara Barton; she’s the one who founded the American Red Cross.
Clara Wilson wanted to be like Clara Barton. So she studied really hard at being a nurse. Clara tells a friend, “Jimmy Stewart put his career on hold to enlist, so I decided I would too, as I signed the forms saying I now belonged to the army nurse Corps. “Free a man to fight.” The poster said, “Clara saw how, “the roles were all scattered and reversed, and woman were raising families and fixing machinery and delivering mail, driving trucks and no one was sleeping. The whole country was just kind of stumbling around in the mad state of insomnia. Roosevelt was on the radio, saying “I regret to tell you that many American lives have been lost,” hearing that was enough to keep us awake and fighting in our own humble ways. Even if it meant just fighting at home so the men could go abroad, but Eva and I would join the ranks of women who’d already signed up to care for the wounded, the ranks let so many years ago by Clara Barton.”
Eva and Clara were next door neighbors friends since childhood. They ran off without their families’ blessings to help were they could. They weren’t prepared for what they went thru in boot camp marching in battle wear, building up their strength so they could assist the wounded. Things got real bloody and frantic after the battle of the bulge happened. Clara thinks, “We were all too busy trying to keep near-dead a live; we had no time to think about ourselves…”And where was God?... I begged my fingers to minister as they washed and wrapped gauze, and I smiled if any of the soldiers looked at my face, but night and day and hours wore on, and men died because we couldn’t reach them fast enough. Because no matter how bright the light inside you, if everything around you is oppressively dark, it begins to leak into your eyes and eventually you either die or find a miracle…and I found a miracle…That’s when I met Gareth.”
Clara hand wrote a letter Gareth dictated. He requested she hand deliver it to his wife Mattie. Clara makes good on her promise after the war ends. Mattie was grateful Clara gave her the note and explained how Gareth died. Mattie sends Clara home with a quilt she made for her future children. Clara didn’t want to accept it but Mattie insists.
There was a demand for midwives after the war. There was a baby boom so Clara decided to write the names of the babies she delivers on the quilt. Later Mattie got the idea for them to make quilts and put the names of men who died in battle on them. They would ask women to send pieces of clothing and other items about their children to add to the quilt. There was a great response, to these quilts. There was a need. They even got written up in Life Magazine and went on to develop and organize a corporation called Forever Family.
These became known as healing quilts. People wanted to donate their time, material and money to create these memory quilts. I later discovered that women really did this. I loved reading how this organization started and how lives were deeply touched and healed by making and receiving these amazing quilts. This is a powerful and memorable story that will surprise you and warm your heart. You won’t look at quilts the same way. It’s a keeper.
Nora St Laurent
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