Stitches in Time

by Barbara Michaels

***Many Spoilers throughout****
While listening to this audio version of an old favorite, I remembered the plot vividly since my first reading which was probably decades ago. Rachel is finishing up her doctoral dissertation when she is drawn in to helping out at a vintage clothing shop – and is perhaps possessed by the spirit of a long-dead woman whose unparalleled skill at quilting conceals a darker history.

I closed Stitches in Time contemplating what I had finished and thought, “That was a great book.” I had remembered it being my least favorite of the so-called Georgetown Trilogy, from my first, and, I think, only read more than 2 decades ago. I remembered being surprised and dismayed at Kara’s personality change and less than blissful marriage with Mark after the seemingly happy ending of Shattered Silk. But upon this reread, I thought it added depth and character development, especially since they seemed to be back in love and in good humor at the end.

I’m a little disconcerted by all the hate for Rachel and Kara in some of the other reviews. Some readers seem to ignore the fact that Rachel is being negatively influenced by the quilt through almost 90% of the book. At first I was confused by what was happening, so smoothly integrated are the times when Rachel is being influenced by the entity from the past. The grip gets stronger and stronger, until we both fear for our heroine, but also fear what she is up to. When all is made clear and resolved, shouldn’t the reader like and be sympathetic to her? She even admits, towards the end, that she has been sulky and immature with her mother,which was a separate issue from the quilt. And Kara. She is very abrasive at the beginning. But I think she senses that something is wrong and is reacting accordingly. I too was disappointed by her attitude towards her husband Mark at the beginning, but all is well at the end, and she comes through with flying colors once Rachel and she confide in each other and become comrades in arms. I loved the development of their relationship and the insights we get into her personality. It made for one of Michael’s most satisfying and fully developed endings. (Sometimes her books end with just a hope and hint for the future and leave one wishing for an epilogue or at least one or two more pages.) I was also amazed and satisfied by the final reveal and the explanation for the whole mystery.

A word about Adam. Maybe I am forgetting some beloved appealing heroes, but Adam has got to be my favorite love interest in all of Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. Maybe in one of my Top ten of all authors. What a beautifully described and realized character. I always love an unconventional hero, and Adam is the ultimate. And I love how their love story plays out at the conclusion, when we catch up with the 3 couples months later. Very satisfying to see him finally loved and appreciated as he deserves.

Near the climax of the action, Rachel contemplates

“there was no such thing a coincidence or accident. Every event, however random in appearance formed part of a design too vast and too alien to be comprehended by limited human understanding. Events that were, on the surface, unimportant and meaningless-Rachel’s choice of thesis topic, Tony’s decision to respond to a call he should never have answered-these and a dozen other strands in the web led inexorably toward a nexus in time when the invisible hands of the weaver would draw the threads tight and complete the pattern. It had been predestined and foreordained….”

I find this pretty powerful stuff. There is a suggestion that the quilt and it’s maker are still influencing the 3 couples still, only now in a good way. For example, Mark’s loving concern regarding Kara’s pregnancy, causes him to look with suspicion upon Mrs. Grossmuller(from Shattered Silk! Hi, Mrs. Grossmuller!), who uncannily included beautiful vintage baby clothes in her last delivery. Kara wonders if her friends had told Mark about the “quilt business.” Since the normally super-rational and skeptical Mark had said something about the “evil eye”. Several other happy circumstances are discussed, and Kara mentions the hair which was part of forensic evidence to convict Rocky. “Hair again,” Kara murmured. “Ironic these coincidences…”It’s like justice on the family is still being fashioned by the unseen entity. Finally the last line in the novel describing the plot where they laid the quilt to rest: “ Out in the garden purple and golden crocuses and the small blue flowers called “glory-of-the-snow” covered a certain spot like living patchwork.” All is now right with the world. A fitting and lovely conclusion to the Georgetown trilogy and people that live there. **5 out of 5 stars**

August 28, 2017

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