The Fortune Quilt

The Fortune Quilt - Lani Diane Rich This was my first book by this author, and I was skeptical at first, especially because I downloaded it to my Kindle for free. Unexpectedly, I loved this novel. In fact, I loved it so much that I went to Amazon and bought 5 other novels by Lani Diane Rich. I happily anticipate reading them.
The novel starts on a quiet, even uncertain note. There is no defined hook, nothing ‘explodes’ (as it often does in genre fiction), but the more I read, the more the story pulled me in. By the time I lifted my eyes from the pages and looked at my watch, I was half way into the novel and loving it.
The protagonist, a TV producer Carly, is hurt and confused in the beginning. She has been a surrogate mother to her two younger sisters since she was twelve, when their mother left, and their father, consumed by grief, withdrew into his work. When other girls her age flirted with boys and hung out in malls, Carly nursed her baby sister through illnesses and cooked family dinners every night.
Now at 29, she is stagnating and unhappy in both professional and personal senses. Her career just nosedived, her romantic relationships floundered, and her mother suddenly reappears. And everyone – the father and both sisters – want the woman back.
Carly can’t forgive her mother for bailing out all those years ago. She also can’t forgive the other family members for their instant forgiveness and acceptance. Her life is unraveling from all ends, and nobody seems to care. Feeling bitter and unwanted, Carly does what her mother had done all those years ago: she drives away.
She ends up in Bilby, a small, artsy town, where she is trying to make sense of what has been happening to her. She is re-imagining her life, learning to love and accept and forgive. In a way, Carly’s arrival in Bilby is the real beginning. Before that moment, the humor that permeates the story is almost invisible, unshaped. Carly too seems only half-formed, blurry at the edges. Only when she reaches Bilby, not only as a place on a map but as a way of life, her personality solidifies, and the author’s humor at last bursts to the surface.
“You have been Towered,” one of Bilby residents says to Carly. The reference to Tarot’s Tower and its meaning of upheaval is amazingly fresh. In all my readings, and I read a lot, this book is the first time I found this reference, and I appreciate its originality and its universal truth.
Practically everyone in Bilby, as well as the town herself, had been Towered, at least once. Wounded people came to Bilby to heal and stayed because the town accepted them. In Bilby, there is no need to hide, to pretend. The citizens of Bilby can be themselves, and in turn, they accept every newcomer, no matter how whacky or cranky, thus passing the torch of healing forward.
The town is like another character in the novel; with her own quirky personality and her therapeutic ambience. She was a mining town before, but after the mines closed, the town refused to die. Like her current residents, she reinvented herself as an artists’ retreat, a town of misfits, a refuge and a nursing ground for the injured creativity.
I love this short novel. Although it might be classified as chic lit, its lightness doesn’t have a fluffy component, and its simplicity is enriched by the author’s irreverent but subtle humor. The novel is tightly focused: no unnecessary words and no extraneous characters. The plot and the narrative are crystal clear and inviting. I want to go to Bilby. I want to live there. And although Carly leaves the town in the end, she leaves transformed and better for the change. And her journey makes a charming story I’d recommend to anyone.