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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: Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, dizzy with the mixed signals of a boss who claims she s on a diet but has Isabella file all morning if she forgets to bring her a chocolate muffin. Mary thinks she might cry with happiness when she finally meets a nice guy who loves his mother, only to realize he ll never love Mary quite as much. And Lauren, a waitress at a Midtown bar, swears up and down she won t fall for the sleazy bartender a promise that his dirty blond curls and perfect vodka sodas make hard to keep.
With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering, what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood. These are the years when everyone else seems to have a plan, a great job, and an appropriate boyfriend, while Isabella has a blind date with a gay man, Mary has a crush on her boss, and Lauren has a goldfish named Willard. Through boozy family holidays and disastrous ski vacations, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, "Girls in White Dresses" pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-05-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Artfully spare prose adds a literary tinge to the chick lit staples—navigating relationships, bridesmaid duties, disappointing first jobs—explored in Close's debut collection. At their weakest, the stories owe too much to their predecessors: "The Showers," in which the recurring characters travel to a suburban bridal shower, is essentially a retelling of a snappier Sex and the City episode, and Isabella's boss in "Blind" has the dark shades of The Devil Wears Prada. The standout moments come in "The Peahens," when Abby reveals her unusual family and her struggle to fit in (she "studied hard, taking notes on the silver link bracelets all the girls wore"), and the sharp "Hope," when Shannon takes a backseat to her boyfriend's naïve political passion for "the Candidate" of a presidential campaign. Occasionally funny (as when Isabella refers to her dinner dates as "parallel eating"), but without the risk taking of The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing or the deeply explored emotion of Prep, these stories will resonate with readers in the throes of the quarter-life churn who can see themselves in the cast. (Aug.)
Bright lives, big city
Sometimes we read fiction not to better understand our own lives but to get a glimpse into a life beyond our own. For voyeuristic readers—especially those curious about the lives of young women in Chicago or New York—Girls in White Dresses, Jennifer Close’s debut novel, will be a welcome addition to the bookshelf.
Born and raised in Chicago and a longtime resident of New York City, Close deftly pulls back the curtain on a series of dingy apartments in bustling metropolises. Inside are groups of 20-somethings who graduated from college and are now trying to figure out what’s next. Marriage and/or a meaningful career may be on the horizon (or not). Regardless of what’s to come, this is a group that is more than ready for something to happen. Their lives bump together over vacations or wedding weekends, and the occasional (unavoidable) catastrophe.
We watch these young women find their way through a series of tricky transitions. Love is not center stage here—although there are plenty of weddings and bridal showers, boyfriends and break-ups—nor is there a sustained look at any one character’s personal transformation. Rather we observe the group navigating the whole of life itself. Though readers might long to get to know some character more fully, that isn’t the point. Instead, this novel offers something perhaps finer: a portrait of a generation of women at a particular moment in time.