"All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape."
--Author Christopher Benson



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

A Division of Hachette Book Group
Release date:  February 2011
  • ISBN-10: 044655572X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446555722

Dora was brought up by her grandmother, Mimi, after losing her parents when she was a child.  After graduating high school she just seemed to be going through the motions, she attends the college that offered her a scholarship with a major of liberal studies, unsure of what she truly wanted to do in the future. Her planned summer job falls through, but then a job at a coffee shop with a hunky boss just falls into her lap.  She is thinking of graduating early and attending grad school, but still is moving through life just day to day.

Then she receives a call, she has to return back home, her grandmother has suffered a stroke.  Dora drops everything and returns to Forsyth, North Carolina with just the clothes on her back.  This is't a problem though because she has a full closet at her grandmother's house, but it not your typical closet full of clothes, the closet is full of vintage dresses.  Mimi runs a vintage dress shop and she has always brought home dresses she thinks would look great on Dora.  As a child Dora played "dress up" with these clothes, but now with Mimi in the hospital, Dora must take over things at the dress shop and Mimi requires employees of the shop wear vintage clothing so she gets to wear the dresses out in public. Dora had been brought up being taught that a vintage dress can life a woman's spirit no matter the problem.

While working at the store she meets Mimi's friends and selfish relatives seem to appear out of the woodwork. But the best thing about working at the store was learning that some of the dresses came complete with their own story.  Mimi had been writing the stories and giving them away to the customer who purchased the corresponding dress.

This story had me running through the gambit of emotions, joy, sadness, hope, excitement, anger, amusement and even envy.  This book is truly minor stories, those of the dresses, interspersed within the main story of Dora's life.  She grows from an immature girl flying through life "by the seat of her pants", to a wonderful confident woman and we get the pleasure of tagging along through the pages of this brilliantly written book. 

It is hard to believe this is the author's first novel.  I haven't ever heard of the idea set forth in this book of a garment's history whether fictional or true following simple dresses around.  You only see a snippet of that in museums of dresses worn my famous people and those stories basically don't go beyond, who wore it, who designed it and where was it worn.  I bet after reading this book vintage shop owners will try to copy the idea, but it will take some special creative writing skills to pull off the level set by this story and the unique way that it started will be impossible to duplicate.  

Have some tissues handy while ready both for tears of laughter and tears of melancholy.  There is romance, friendship, greedy relatives and even a little suspense. Fans of small town or woman's fiction will love this book. I really did.

The author and this book have an interesting back story just like the dresses, so be sure to check out Erin's blog and her biography.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free Hachette Book Group.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Nise' said...

I loved this one too!

Kris said...

It sounds like a very good book/story, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

~Laurie~ said...

This sounds wonderful! Thank you for the review :)

Sheila Deeth said...

You've hooked me. It sounds great!

purplume said...

OMGoodness. I was hooked at the title and your review clinched it. Thanks

Aths said...

I've heard a bit about this book but didn't know much about it. I'm glad that you loved it. I'm going to have to look it up!