Saturday, March 10, 2012

Girls in White Dresses

This book was not what I expected.

Here's an excerpt from the book jacket:

"Isabella, Mary and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat minuscule sandwiches and doll-sized cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with."

When I read that, I assumed the book would be a typical light, fluffy tale about young women, possibly envious over their friends' marriages, searching for and eventually finding love. But from the opening chapter, it became obvious that this isn't your typical book about girls and weddings. It is much, much darker than that. There are breakups and failed friendships, miscarriages and relocations, and lots of crying and drinking. The women, far from being desperate for marriage, aren't even sure if they like the men they're with half the time. One of the characters, Isabella, spends a weekend with her boyfriend Harrison at his friends' house, and seems to fluctuate between loving and hating him with every new activity the four attempt. Lauren dates a man who gives her a goldfish on their second date, and mid-relationship, claims he never wants to live with anyone, ever. Mary kisses an engaged man at work without realizing he's engaged, and later winds up marrying a man with a mother named Button. And there's their friend Kristi, who has six bridal showers and dozens of other little tiny bridal "events," all of which she expects her bridesmaids to attend, forcing them to see how shallow she is and ultimately end their friendships with her.

I can't say I actually enjoyed any of the characters. In fact, reading this book broke one of my rules: I usually stop reading if I don't care about the outcome. (See my post The Turn Off.) But I kept reading this one, for two reasons. One, I liked the format. Every chapter was a little vignette about one of the characters. Mary, Lauren and Isabella were the recurring ones, but there were also stories from their friends' points of view. Two, I liked the style. Jennifer Close writes in blunt, plain language and in the present tense, which is my personal favorite writing tense. It feels fresher and closer to the reader than past tense. 

When I finished the book, I wasn't really sure how I felt or what I thought about it, but it stayed on my mind for a few days. And that, I think, is the mark of a great writer. 

Also, during the days in which the book was sitting on my bedside table, I frequently had the song "My Favorite Things" stuck in my head. It took me a depressingly long time to figure out why.

"Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes..."

1 comment:

  1. I had the same mixed feelings about this book, I felt as if I never really got to know the characters- but maybe, as you experienced, it was that I really didn't care. I found myself reading very quickly to just get to the end and get the whole thing over with.

    And the whole not knowing whether they even liked the guy thing- that just annoyed me. I felt the same way reading "Queen of Babble" recently.