Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

Normally I cut and paste the story synopsis from the book cover in this space, rather than taking the time to sum it up myself.  This time, however, I read the blurb and wondered who wrote it - surely not someone who actually read the book.  So here goes my own description (mixed with portions of the original) and then you'll know why I avoid this part:

When Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke, Dora rushes back home to Forsyth, NC.  As she waits for Mimi to recover, she helps out by running her grandmother's vintage clothing store and discovers the imagined histories that Mimi writes and distributes along with each vintage dress.  Between the hospital and the store, she searches for information about her parents and for direction.

The publisher's synopsis talks about the "adorable contractor" that Dora meets, and how Dora "trades in her boring life for one she really wants"...But that makes the story sound fluffier than it actually is.  Although this book probably falls into the much maligned "chick lit" genre, it has depth, a little mystery, and lots of emotion.  I can't recall another book where a character we never really meet - Mimi, who is unconscious in a hospital through most of the book - has such influence on a story.  I admired Ms. McKean's ability to bring Mimi to life through flashbacks and other character's memories, without any real interaction.  

I'm certainly glad I chose this book based on blogger reviews rather than anything from the publisher or professional reviewers - they both over simplified and "fluffed" a good story.  

Favorite lines:  

" 'There's some leftover ham and biscuits in the fridge."  "Ham!" Camille slapped her midsection, and her slap resounded a little too loudly.  "Can't do that, nosirree.  Some of us are watching our girlish figures."  Camille hadn't been girlish since the Nixon administration, but Dora let it pass."

"Her stories all involved the peccadilloes of the girls she had gone to high school with, who, if Dora knew them at all, she knew only as the mothers of people Dora had barely known in her own high school.  Camille had never really left high school."  - Don't you know that person? :)

"Mimi hated a lot of words.  She didn't like the word "moist", even when it was about a cake . . . She hated the word "hapless" - "What's a hap, and why should I care that you don't have one?" - but didn't feel the same way about "feckless", which she used more frequently than perhaps she should." - Never really thought about this.  Are there words you hate and words you really like?  I feel a blog post brewing...

1 comment:

  1. Wait, what! It's fiction?! I thought it was a memoir! no matter, I'm still interested. or re-interested...