The Goodbye Quilt

( 40 )


Linda Davis's local fabric shop is a place where women gather to share their creations: quilts commemorating important events in their lives. Wedding quilts, baby quilts, memorial quilts—each is bound tight with dreams, hopes and yearnings.

Now, as her only child readies for college, Linda is torn between excitement for Molly and heartache for herself. Who will she be when she is no longer needed in her role as mom? What will become of her ...

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The Goodbye Quilt

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Linda Davis's local fabric shop is a place where women gather to share their creations: quilts commemorating important events in their lives. Wedding quilts, baby quilts, memorial quilts—each is bound tight with dreams, hopes and yearnings.

Now, as her only child readies for college, Linda is torn between excitement for Molly and heartache for herself. Who will she be when she is no longer needed in her role as mom? What will become of her days? Of her marriage?

Mother and daughter decide to share one last adventure together—a cross-country road trip to move Molly into her dorm. As they wend their way through the heart of the country, Linda stitches together the scraps that make up Molly's young life. And in the quilting of each bit of fabric—the hem of a christening gown, a snippet from a Halloween costume—Linda discovers that the memories of a shared journey can come together in a way that will keep them both warm in the years to come….

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Susan Wiggs paints the details
of human relationships with the
finesse of a master."
-Jodi Picoult

"With the ease of a master, Wiggs introduces complicated, flesh-and-blood characters into her idyllic but identifiable small-town setting...." --Publishers Weekly, starred review on The Winter Lodge

"Wiggs's talent is reflected in her thoroughly believable characters as well as the way she recognizes the importance of family by blood or other ties."
-Library Journal

"Wiggs is one of our best observers of stories of the heart. She knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book."
-Salem Statesman-Journal

"Wiggs' prose is both compelling and moving...Each and every character is finely detailed, and finishing the book feels like saying goodbye to dear old friends."-RT BookReviews on Summer at Willow Lake

"Just Breathe is tender and heartbreaking... It's a beautiful novel." --Luanne Rice

"Wiggs takes serious situations and weaves them into an emotionally wrought story that will have readers reaching for the Kleenex one moment and snickering out loud the next."-Publishers Weekly on Just Breathe

"Wiggs explores many aspects of grief, from guilt to anger to regret, imbuing her book with the classic would've/could've/should've emotions, and presenting realistic and sympathetic characters.... another excellent title to her already-outstanding body of work." --Booklist, starred review, on Table for Five

Library Journal
A cross-country trip to college turns into much more than this mother and daughter first expect. Their journey is a remembered patchwork of life that mirrors the quilt Linda Davis is making for her daughter Molly, a life as seen through the eyes of a parent. And as each new patch is pieced together, this pair relive their past and look to the future, a future they both anticipate and fear. This is a heartwarming, easy read with a twist of realism that readers of all ages will enjoy. Great for daughters to give to their mothers and vice versa. VERDICT Wiggs ("Lakeshore Chronicles") will not disappoint her fans with this classic tale of growing up and moving on. Readers of Marie Bostwick (A Single Thread) or Emilie Richards (Wedding Ring) will also love this one.—Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City/Cty. P.L., MO
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594468639
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 3/29/2011
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

When Susan Wiggs’s recent novel, Fireside, landed at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, the author responded by jumping fully clothed into her swimming pool. In February. In the Pacific Northwest. After thawing herself out, the author put on her lipstick and vacuumed the living room. Why? Because on the tiny island where she lives, news travels fast. She knew her girlfriends would show up momentarily - which they did - with the customary champagne and bags of Cheetos. She toasted her loyal readers, whose unflagging interest in her books propelled her sales upward. She toasted her friends and family as well, since they have always been the source of her inspiration.

From the very start, her writings have illuminated the everyday dramas of ordinary people. At the age of eight, she self-published her first novel, entitled A Book About Some Bad Kids.

Today, she is an international best-selling author, with millions of copies of her books in print in numerous countries. Her Lakeshore Chronicles novels celebrate the power of love, the timeless bonds of family and the nuances of human nature that make headlines every day.

She lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest and is perpetually working on her next novel.

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Read an Excerpt

How do you say goodbye to a piece of your heart? If you're a quilter, you have a time-honored way to express yourself.

A quilt is an object of peculiar intimacy. By virtue of the way it is created, every inch of the fabric is touched. Each scrap absorbs the quilter's scent and the invisible oils of her skin, the smell of her household and, thanks to the constant pinning and stitching, her blood in the tiniest of quantities. And tears, though she might be loath to admit it.

My adult life has been a patchwork of projects, most of which were fleeting fancies of overreaching vision. I tend to seize on things, only to abandon them due to a lack of time, talent or inclination.

There are a few things I'm truly good at—-Jeopardy!, riding a bike, balancing a checkbook, orienteering, making balloon animals…and quilting.

I'm good at pulling together little bits and pieces of disparate objects. The process suits me. Each square captures my attention like a new landscape. Everything about quilting suits me, an occupation for hands and heart and imagination.

Other things didn't work out so well—Szechuan cooking, topiary gardening, video games and philately come to mind.

My main project, my ultimate work-in-progress, is Molly, of course. And today she's going away to college, clear across the country. Correction—I'm taking her away, delivering her like an insured parcel to a new life.

Hence the quilt. What better memento to give my daughter than a handmade quilt to keep in her dorm room, a comforter stitched with all the memories of her childhood? It'll be a tangible reminder of who she is, where she comes from…and maybe, if I'm lucky, it will offer a glimpse of her dreams.

All my quilting supplies come from a shop in town called Pins & Needles. The place occupies a vintage building on the main street. It's been in continuous operation for more than five decades. As a child, I passed its redbrick and figured concrete storefront on my way to school each day, and I still remember the kaleidoscope of fabrics in the window, flyers announcing classes and raffles, the rainbow array of rich-colored thread, the treasure trove of glittering notions. My first job as a teenager was at the shop, cutting fabric and ringing up purchases.

When Molly started school, I worked there part time, as much for the extra money as for the company of women who frequented Pins & Needles. Fall is wonderful at the fabric shop, a nesting time, when people are making Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving centerpieces and Christmas decorations. People are never in a hurry in a fabric shop. They browse. They talk about their projects, giving you a glimpse of their lives.

The shop is a natural gathering place for women. The people I've met there through the years have become my friends. Customers and staff members stand around the cutting tables to discuss projects, give demonstrations and workshops, offer advice on everything from quilting techniques to child rearing to marriage. The ladies there all know about my idea to make a quilt as a going-away gift for Molly. Some of them even created pieces for me to add, embroidered with messages of "Good Luck" and "Congratulations."

You can always tell what's going on in a woman's life based on the quilt she's working on. The new-baby quilts are always light and soft, the wedding quilts pure and clean, filled with tradition, as though a beautiful design might be an inoculation against future strife. Housewarming quilts tend to be artistic, suitable for hanging on an undecorated wall. The most lovingly created quilts of all are the memory quilts, often created as a group project to commemorate a significant event, help with healing or to celebrate a life.

I've always thought a quilt held together with a woman's tears to be the strongest of all.

Nonquilters have a hard time getting their heads around the time and trouble of a project like this. My friend Cherisse, who has three kids, said, "Linda, honey, I'm just glad to get them out of the house—up and running, with no criminal record." Another friend confessed, "My daughter would only ruin it. She's so careless with her things." My neighbor Erin, who started law school when her son entered first grade, now works long hours and makes a ton of money. "I wish I had the time," she said wistfully when I showed her my project.

What I've found is that you make time for the things that matter to you. Everyone has the time. It's just a question of deciding what to do with that time. For some people, it's providing for their family. For others, it's finding that precarious balance between taking care of business and the soul-work of being there for husband, children, friends and neighbors.

I'm supposed to be making the last-minute preparations before our departure on the epic road trip, but instead I find myself dithering over the quilt, cont emplating sashing and borders and whether my color palette is strong and balanced. Although the top is pieced, the backing and batting in place, there is still much work to be done. Embellishments to add. It might not be proper quilting technique, but quilting is an art, not a science. My crafter's bag is filled with snippets of fabric culled from old, familiar clothes, fabric toys and textiles that have been outgrown, but were too dear or too damaged to take to the Goodwill bin. I'm a big believer in charity bins. Just because a garment is no longer suitable doesn't mean it couldn't be right for someone else. On the other hand, some things are not meant to be parted with.

I sift through the myriad moments of Molly's childhood, which I keep close to my heart, like flowers from a prized bouquet, carefully pressed between sheets of blotter paper. I fold the quilt and put it in the bag with all the bright bits and mementos—a tiny swatch of a babydoll's nightie, an official-looking Girl Scout badge, a precious button that is the only survivor of her first Christmas dress…. So many memories lie mute within this long-handled bag, waiting for me to use them as the final embellishments on this work of art.

I'll never finish in time.

You can do this. I try to give myself a pep talk, but the words fall through my mind and trickle away. This is unexpected, this inability to focus. A panic I haven't been expecting rises up in me, grabbing invisibly at my chest. Breathe, I tell myself. Breathe.

The house already feels different; a heaviness hangs in the drapes over the old chintz sofa. Sounds echo on the wooden floors—a suitcase being rolled to the front porch, a set of keys dropped on the hall table. An air of change hovers over everything.

Dan has driven to the Chevron station to fill the Suburban's tank. He's not coming; this long drive without him will be a first for our family. Until now, every road trip has involved all three of us—Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Big Sur, speeding along endless highways with the music turned up loud. We did everything as a family. I can't even remember what Dan and I used to do before Molly. Those days seem like a life that happened to someone else. We were a couple, but Molly made us a family.

This time, Dan will stay home with Hoover, who is getting on in years and doesn't do well at the kennel anymore.

It's better this way. Dan was never fond of saying goodbye. Not that anybody enjoys it, but in our family, I'm always the stoic, the one who makes the emotional work look easy—on the outside, anyway. My solo drive back home will be another first for me. I hope I'll use the time well, getting to know myself again, maybe. Scary thought—what if I get to know myself and I'm someone I don't want to be?

Now, as the heaviness of the impending departure presses down on me, I wonder if we should have planned things differently. Perhaps the three of us should have made this journey together, treating it as a family vacation, like a trip to Disney World or the Grand Canyon.

On the other hand, that's a bad idea. There can be no fooling ourselves into thinking this is something other than what it is—the willful ejection of Molly from our nest. It's too late for second thoughts, anyway. She has to be moved into her dorm in time for freshman orientation. It's been marked on the kitchen calendar for weeks—the expiration date on her childhood.

At the other end of the downstairs, a chord sounds on the piano. Molly tends to sit down and play when she has a lot on her mind. Maybe it's her way of sorting things out.

I'm grateful for the years of lessons she took, even when we could barely afford them. I wanted my daughter to have things I never had, and music lessons are one of them. She's turned into an expressive musician, transforming standard pieces into something heartfelt and mystical. Showy trills and glissandos sluice through the air, filling every empty space in the house. The piano will sit fallow and silent when she's away; neither Dan nor I play. He never had the time to learn; I never had the wherewithal or—I admit it—the patience. Ah, but Molly. She was fascinated with the instrument from the time she stretched up on toddler legs to reach the keys of the secondhand piano we bought at auction. She started lessons when she was only six.

All the hours of practice made up the sound track of her growing years. "Bill Grogan's Goat" was an early favorite, leading to more challenging works, from "The Rainbow Connection" to "Fur Elise," Bartok and beyond. Almost every evening for the past twelve years, Molly practiced while Dan and I cleaned up after dinner. This was her way of avoiding dishwashing duty, and we considered it a fair division of labor—I rinse, he loads, she serenades. She managed to make it to age eighteen without learning to properly load a dishwasher, yet she can play Rachmaninoff.

In the middle of a dramatic pause between chords, a car horn sounds.

The bag with the quilt falls, momentarily forgotten, to the floor. That innocent yip of the horn signals that summer has ended.

Molly stops playing, leaving a profound hollow of silence in the house. Seconds later, I can still feel the throb of the notes in the stillness. I go to the landing at the turn of the stairs in time to see her jump up, leaving the piano bench askew.

She runs outside, the screen door snapping shut behind her like a mousetrap. Watching through the window on the landing, I brace myself for another storm of emotion. She has been saying goodbye to Travis all summer long. Today, the farewell will be final.

Here is a picture of Molly: Curly hair wadded into a messy ponytail. Athletic shorts balanced on her hip bones, a T-shirt with a dead rock star on it. A body toned by youth, volleyball and weekend swims at the lake. A face that shows every emotion, even when she doesn't want it to.

Now she flings herself into her boyfriend's arms as a sob breaks from her, mingling with the sound of morning birdsong. Oh, that yearning, the piercing kind only love-dazed teenagers can feel. Hands holding for the last time. Grief written in their posture as their bodies melt together. Travis's arms encircle her with their ropy strength, and his long form bows protectively, walling her off from me.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 40 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Goodbye Quilt is a deep look at a mother and daughter relationship at a critical point

    Mother and daughter Linda and Molly Davis are driving across the country for the latter to begin college. As they journey together on their first trip without the man of the house Dan, Linda, having worked part-time at Pins and Needles, begins knitting a quilt using remnants of fabrics from Molly's past to highlight her daughter's life. Her plan is to give the quit to her daughter when they reach their destination.

    Linda also ponders what life will be like without her offspring sharing the house with her and Dan who remained behind to care for their aging pet Hoover. Meanwhile as Linda considers empty nesting, Molly wonders about leaving behind her high school boyfriend.

    The Goodbye Quilt is a deep look at a mother and daughter relationship at a critical point when the only offspring leaves home for the first time. The quilt represents where Molly has been while the road trip reflects the present and where she is going. Susan Wiggs provides a powerful passionate parable of the first rite of passage the older person begins passing life's torch to the next generation.

    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2011

    For the Empty-Nesters

    I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. First, the not so good. Let me preface by saying that this is most likely particular to my situation. I am a quilter, and I have worked for a quilt shop, and as a professional quilter, for 13 years. Because of that, I think the quilting theme, while possibly quaint to other readers (and something I thought I would enjoy as well), was somewhat tedious to me. I imagine it's like someone who works in a book shop reading a novel set in a book shop. I adore books like that. For booksellers, perhaps it just reminds them of work. That was an issue, not the only issue, but still something that lessened my enjoyment. The other problem I had with the book was that it seemed slow at times. It was almost like reading what could have been a short story that dragged for a bit too long. It was very emotive and not much in the way of action,. Lots more going on in the main character's mind than actually moving the story along. This isn't so much a fault of the book, more just a style preference of my own. I personally prefer more plot and less introspection. Now, the good. The book was beautifully written, and the style was lovely. At times, I admit I had to look up a word or two - Ms. Wiggs obviously has an excellent vocabulary - but it never felt pretentious, just smartly written. While I would have liked to see the relationship between the husband and wife fleshed out a bit more, I found the characters to be well-written and easily relatable. On the whole, it is a quick and enjoyable read, and I believe those who appreciate introspective, emotional fiction will really love this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2014

    Fun book

    Sent it to my sister who's a quilter and she loved it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2011

    Not my favorite Wiggs book

    I've really enjoyed Wiggs' Lakeshore Chronicles series, but I just haven't been able to embrace this book. I'm several chapters in and keep hoping the pace will pick up, but I finally peeked at the middle of the book and found it to be the same grueling pace as the first few chapters have been. This could have been a great short story for a magazine, but it's just way too slow for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2011

    What a great read

    This book brings out that part of us "moms" that we all have to grapple with - our children leaving home for college and that empty home. . . . Who are we now that it is 18 years later, many trials, drama, and episodes of life later- will we be happy with ourself and who we have become . . . . I love this book & read it so quick I needed more . .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Don't waste your money!

    This is not necessarily a bad book -- it just isn't worth the money. The Nook version costs more than most, yet it's really a novella rather than a full book. You might enjoy it is stream of consciousness is your thing. It is not mine. I've now read Wiggs' last two books and really didn't enjoy either of them. It will be some time before I buy another.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2011

    best book

    best book

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2013

    Highly Recommended!

    I enjoyed this book, just as I do all of Susan Wiggs books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    Love this sweet story

    I found this book charming and quite touching. I was moved to tears a couple times while reading this and thoroughlybenjiyed this book. It's a great quick summer read.. I finished it in a few hours. I am a quilter and loved that aspect of the story, but any non-quilter could pick this up and enjoy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    I thoroughly enjoyed this mother/daughter story.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this mother/daughter story.

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  • Posted January 25, 2012

    Great book for needleworkers everywhere!

    What a sweetly nostalgic book! Not only is it the telling of the making of a quilt, it is the developing of a grownup relationship between a mother and daughter, with all its stresses and strains and poignancy. And what happens to the quilt in the end is the best surprise of all!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 3, 2011

    Good Book

    This was a nice quick read. I read it as we were taking my daughter on college visits. Very touching story of the bond between mother and daughter and how to deal with impending "empty nest" feelings. Loved it so much I bought for my mother as well.

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  • Posted October 23, 2011

    Wouldn't know

    Never got to read it because for some reason I am not able to purchase boks. Have tried to get in touch with sales audit department numerous times but stll have never spoke to someone who can help me. Spoke to several reps but they told me they were not able to tell me why I couldn't buy books and really did not seem to care either. Have e-mailed many times as well. Barnes & Noble has never responded in any way. So for now the library is where I'll go and my Nook will sit unused on a shelf. I certainly will not recommend anyone to buy one either since there is no support if needed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2011

    Very good

    I bought this book as I am a quilter. It was a very good book and I enjoyed it a bunch. Susan Wiggs is a great writer - have read all her books!

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  • Posted August 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    Have enjoyed all of Susan Wiggs books.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2011

    Very disappointed

    I usually love her books, but was very disappointed in this book. It is boring. I can't wait until I finish it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2011


    This book hurt me in agood way its Frecken awesomme!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 8, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted July 2, 2011

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