Thursday, July 24, 2008
Patricia Hickman's Painted Dresses ~ Reviewed
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (July 15, 2008)
In this story of sisterhood and unexpected paths, Gaylen Syler-Boatwright flees her unraveling marriage to take refuge in a mountain cottage owned by her deceased aunt. Burdened with looking after her adult sister, Delia, she is shocked to find a trail of family secrets hidden within her aunt’s odd collection of framed, painted dresses. With Delia, who attracts trouble as a daily occupation, Gaylen embarks on a road trip that throws the unlikely pair together on a journey to painful understanding and delightful revelations.
Steeped in Hickman’s trademark humor, her spare writing voice, and the bittersweet pathos of the South, Painted Dresses powerfully captures a woman’s desperate longing to uncover a hidden, broken life and discover the liberty of living authentically, even when the things exposed are shrouded in shame.
I recognize Gaylen and Delia. Unfortunately, that means there are families so touched by deep, dark secrets that members of those families become unable to function in a normal relationship. We all have those broken spots in our lives...can we swing in a circle and not bump into someone who is scarred?
Delia is flighty, rebellious and out of control. She peppers her surroundings with emotional buckshot. Gaylen spins like a toy top, bouncing and whirling elsewhere (anywhere) attempting to do what she knows is right. Her crippled past guarantees that those right things will fail.
This novel is a very gritty read. Not your traditional inspiring Christian fiction. If there are categories of Christian fiction...one being sharing the hope and light of Christ and His power, the other showing how desperately hope, light and power are needed, Painted Dresses falls in the second category. You won't feel warm and fuzzy after reading it. You may find hope, it's not a hopeless read, but it is a very long look into lives of people who spend weeks and months grasping, gasping and trying to protect their view of themselves, regardless of the cost.
I applaud Patricia Hickman's desire to open a closet door, and if you love fiction that goes to the dark place in a human's soul, you definitely need to read the first chapter. Those who've been there may find healing by opening up and peeking in.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer