Eva Marie Everson
Paperback, 453 pages
One dress, five women, a lifetime of memories.
Five single, fiercely independent women live together in a Chicago apartment in the early 1950s but rarely see one another. One Saturday afternoon, as they are serendipitously together downtown, they spy a wedding dress in a storefront window at the famous Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. After trying it on―much to the dismay of the salesclerk and without a single boyfriend or date between the five of them―they decide to pool their money to purchase it. Can one dress forever connect five women who live together only a short time before taking their own journeys to love and whatever comes happily ever after?
This novel captivated me and created a deep sense of nostalgia—for a time period I’ve never lived in. I’ve always enjoyed stories that capture a sense of relational connectedness and community, and to me, that’s what made this novel so heart-warming. It takes a gifted writer to craft a novel with five key and distinct characters. Ms. Everson drew me deeply to each character and the time period in which they lived.
The story begins in a hotel room in London, England in 2015, with a bride waiting for a special wedding dress—a wedding dress with a rather enchanting history. In the following chapter, the story behind this dress begins to unfold. But the greatest stories are not about the dress but instead, the women who purchased it, the growth they experienced, the challenges they overcame, and the bond they shared.
The novel quickly time-shifts to 1951, Chicago. In this historically rich city, five women roommates, living at a time when women were still fighting for the right to work and receive equal pay, pushed against societal expectations to find independence. I loved experiencing old Chicago, and the author did a great job of fully immersing me in setting.
As I said previously, all the characters captured my heart, and I’ve been trying to determine which female I enjoyed most. Though they were all memorable, I greatly admired Betty and feel she was the unifying thread of these special female relationships. A strong and confident socialite raised in luxury, she valued her independence so much, she was willing to lose everything in order to be true to herself. She became the voice of reason to the other women in the story and continually, but gently, pointed them toward strength, self-respect, and self-discovery.
The other women had similar stories of finding themselves, and, of course, true love. Some had to learn the hard way, and it was painful watching them travel down a road of self-destruction. But in the end, their relationship to one another, symbolized by a beautiful and shared wedding gown, remained intact and carried them through, ultimately bringing out the best in each of them.
I really loved this story, much more than this review indicates because I find myself struggling to explain just what it was that captivated me so. But I think it was the special bond these women shared. In our fast-paced, technologically driven culture, relationships can be so fleeting and surface level. It was refreshing and endearing to read about relationships that withstood the test of time and distance. And perhaps that’s why this story created such a sense of nostalgia, carrying with it the reminder that relationships matter.
I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves women’s fiction, historical fiction, and romance.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery