A Mending at the Edge

BOOK REVIEW: A Mending at the Edge by Jane Kirkpatrick

“Of all the things I left in Willapa, hope is what I missed the most.”

In the third of the “Change and Cherish” series, Jane Kirkpatrick continues the story based on Emma Wagner Giesy, the only woman sent to the Oregon Territory in the 1850s to help found a communal society.

Emma and her three children escape an abusive marriage and move from their homestead in Willapa to find safety in Aurora Mills, Oregon. Aurora was part of a utopian religious community that moved initially from Bethel, MO in the 1856 to the Washington Territory.

She has had great tragedy in her life, her heart has been broken, and hope seems out of her reach. And new troubles come from resisting the patriarchal leadership of the colony. But Emma’s spirit is strong and she longs to make sense of her tragedy and find a way to move forward, living with uncertainty in life, and a constant renewing of her faith.

Through her quilting gatherings, Emma begins to weave and God sends the thread to mend relationships, like the frayed edges of cloth. When a child in the community dies, she tells her children to picture heaven as “a place where young girls quilt, all day long … and she never has to take any stitches out …” Death reminds her of the loss of her first beloved husband, and she decides it is “the mark of our character, how we let others be the patch in our lives when we felt most torn apart.”

Emma has sehnsucht, a German term that means a deep longing, a passion to find meaning and to be spiritually engaged. She eventually realizes that her continued seeking and questioning has been an important part of her faith journey. “It couldn’t be wise to become so certain of how God worked in the world that we stopped seeing evidence of divine surprise.”

Her eventual acceptance of Aurora and its communal life is exemplified by her sister Kitty, “… We all live in this place together, this Aurora, and that has the same … I don’t know, comfort, I guess. People know one another and care about one another even if there are skirmishes now and then. There always are in families.”

And that sense of family is what restores Emma’s hope and her strength in self. When her son thanks and compliments her on an appliquéd picture of her children, she concludes, “What more could any mother wish for? What more could any woman want?”

Jane Kirkpatrick says, “As I learned of some of the trials Emma and her husband faced with the landscape and with the leader, I became more and more convinced of her fortitude and her wish to do what most 21st century women wish for:  to do the best we can for our families without losing ourselves in the process. Her struggles represented contemporary issues of many faith communities wishing to sustain their own practices while still being relevant in the larger world. Fiction is really made up of change, causation, conversation, conflict and characters. It’s the weaving together of those qualities along with landscapes, relationships, spirituality and work that creates the turmoil. Just as in our lives!”

Jane’s writing is a delight to read, a patchwork quilt rich with metaphors, as she tells Emma’s story of obstacles, loss, and conflict to find personal growth and satisfaction in giving and serving others. A Mending at the Edge is a wonderful conclusion to a woman’s story of strength and perseverance.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the award-winning author of 14 historical novels, two non-fiction books, as well as numerous articles. Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft, a non-fiction book of interest to women’s studies, historians, quilters and craftsman will be out in December.

A Mending at the Edge is available at www.waterbrookpress.com or www.amazon.com

ISBN 978-0-7394-9545-2.

Heidi M. Thomas has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is the author of a soon-to-be published novel, Cowgirl Dreams. She teaches memoir and beginning fiction writing and does freelance editing for fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of CWGI, Women Writing the West, and Skagit Valley Writers League.

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Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 10:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. What a beautiful writeup on “Mending on the Edge” written by Jane Kirkpatrick. It’s quite an intriguing story.


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