‘Persian Pickle Club’ is a must read

Persian Pickle Club, Sandra Dallas, book reviewIt’s the Depression, it’s Kansas and the Persian Pickle Club is very good at keeping a secret.

That’s the three things you have to know before picking up “The Persian Pickle Club” by Dallas, Sandra. This book has been out for nearly two decades, but it is still a great read. It was recommended to me by a former co-worker, also a crafter, who just loved it, and I have to admit that I do too.

First some explaining, Persian pickle is another word for paisley, and the group of quilters has a special piece of paisley fabric that has made it into all of their quilts, hence the name of the club.

Now onto the cast of characters which is what makes the book.

Queenie Bean, the narrator, is a young farm housewife who desperately wants to have children, but is unable to due to complication from a miscarriage. She’d rather quilt than do just about anything else in the world and while she loves the Pickles, she yearns for a close friend near her own age as most of the younger residents of Harveyville, Kansas, have left to find work in the city.

Enter Rita Ritter, a city girl who married Tom Ritter and was forced to move to the family farm when Tom couldn’t find a job after graduating from college. Tom’s mother Sabra and sister Agnes are both members of the Persian Pickle Club, making Rita an automatic member, even though she can’t sew a stitch at the beginning of the novel. Completely unaccustomed to farm life, she can’t tell sugar and salt apart, Rita dreams of the day she and Tom can leave and return to the city. An aspiring reporter, who has a problem getting the details right, she manages to secure a correspondent gig with the hopes of it turning into a permanent position that will be her ticket out of town.

Other notables are:

  • Septima Judd, the most well off of the Pickles, the unofficial leader of the group and a woman who just might have something to hide
  • Nettie Burgett, the wife of a rough husband who makes his living running gambling rings, who lives in constant fear of what he might do if he finds out about their daughter’s promiscuous ways
  • Ella Crook, an elderly woman whose husband disappeared about a year before the book begins

The book begins by introducing the cast of characters and showing how they’ll do just about anything for each other. Provide comfort in times of pain, bring food at just about any occasion and gossip like crazy, except for when it comes to their own business. One of the Pickles is having an affair and they all just pretend it isn’t happening, because well, that’s the polite thing to do.

Then trouble starts when the bones of Ella Crook’s husband are discovered on her farm, and it’s murder. The Pickles are all ready to show up at Ella’s with baked goods and sewing to help her through the shock and then get on with it. But Rita wants to find the murderer, and hopefully get a permanent position at the newspaper in the process.

Queenie reluctantly agrees to drive Rita around town to interview the sheriff, doctor, Ella and just about anyone who might know who wanted Ben Crook dead. Just when she thinks she has it all figured out, the Pickles let her in on a secret that turns everything upside down.

“The Persian Pickle Club” is a riot, with strong female characters that do what needs to be done to look out for each other and see their families trough the Great Depression. It was a fast read that never dragged on because Dallas is an expert at sucking the reader into the lives of the women she creates, not just so you can learn who killed Ben Crook, but also so you can find out what happens to this group of women who you’d like to have in your quilting group. I highly recommend adding “The Persian Pickle Club” to your reading list.

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