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The Wedding Dress Paperback – 7 Mar 2012
Hardcover, Large Print, Import
|Paperback, 7 Mar 2012||
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About the Author
Rachel Hauck is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of The Wedding Dress, which was also named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and two pets and writes from her ivory tower. Visit her online at rachelhauck.com Facebook: rachelhauck Twitter: @RachelHauck
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I expected a sweet, fluffy story going in but found myself pleasantly surprised to come to the last page and realize I really loved this tale! The different points of history are all fascinating and each character is unique and life-like. There are good-hearted characters to cheer for and wicked people to cut eyes at (figuratively, of course). I can't think of one character here, good or bad, that did not hold my interest til the end! And the mystery of the dress itself -- I had to know how all these stories tied together! There's also the cute couplings to enjoy -- the back and forth struggle between Charlotte and her man (not a bad struggle though -- more of a "man, it'll be great when they come around" kind of tension), even through their rough patches they had nice banter and sweet, honest moments. I think my favorite, though, was Mary Grace and her husband as they were portrayed as the old couple in the retirement home, still looking out for each other. Having known couples like that when I worked in those kinds of homes, it definitely brought some warm-fuzzies to my heart :-)
I liked that this story had the blend of sweet, mysterious and heart-tugging without getting over-the-top sappy. These characters just felt like straight-up good people you'd know or meet in your everyday life. That tiniest vein of magical realism -- with the mystery man in purple -- was a pretty cool touch to keep the pages turning as well!
Full review: First off, as many other reviewers have noted, this book is not clearly advertised as a Christian book, and yet spends a lot of time talking about God and Jesus. I will address the theological aspects of the book at the end of the review, but I tried to leave those out of my star ratings, and will first address the book's relative strengths and weaknesses sans Christianity.
The book centers on a magic wedding dress that makes its way to different brides over a hundred year period. The bulk of the story is focused on two women: Emily, the 1912 bride for whom the dress is made (by a black seamstress), and Charlotte, the modern-day owner of a bridal salon whose own wedding is on hold as she and her fiance try to work through their problems.
The characters and stories of each bride (including the two who are talked about but not a focus on the book) are interesting, as is the general concept. The dress, of course, is meant to stand in for something more, though the "more" that the author reveals in the author's note at the end of the book seems (at best) a weak comparison, since the seeds of that connection between the dress and what it stands for were not really sewn (pun intended) throughout the book. As a result, the book really seems to be about a dress until the author's note, when the author tacks on a "oh, yeah, this is what the dress means."
Even so, the book could have been an interesting read, if not for a few big problems. First is the prose; the story can go on perfectly well for a few pages, but then the author throws in a phrase or a few sentences that are awkwardly purple. It's as though the author fell in love with an image or a turn of phrase and kept it in though it sounded awkward and out of place (I kept hearing Faulkner's voice in my head: "kill your darlings!"). These regular interruptions of what is, elsewhere, decent prose are a distraction.
More than the prose, though, is the problem of the characters' voices and the anachronisms (which, in my mind, are related). All of the characters sound the same. Literally, all of them. When reading a passage of dialogue, it is impossible to tell who is saying what. Not only that, despite taking place in the vivid south, I felt like this story could have taken place anywhere. There was no local flavor, in the characters' voices or in the story itself. (Once or twice, the author would throw in a semi-southernism, like having a character who otherwise talks like a back-east educated lawyer suddenly saying that he feels like a "coon up a tree." This might have worked if it didn't sound so different from the rest of the character's speech and narration.) And certain words or phrases (like "Mercy" as an exclamation) were given to too many different characters to offer any punch.
Meanwhile, there were all sorts of anachronisms in Emily's story, starting with the character herself. She describes herself as not being strong or rebellious, and yet she goes against the grain of society again and again. I just don't believe that a character who lived in Birmingham in 1912, and was as religious as she was, would be so quick to rebel against her parents and fiance, much less society. (Remember that this is the time when "good Christian women" were taught that racism and sexism was biblically based, much as "good Christians" today view homosexuality.) Her big hesitation was in going back on her word, not on the outrageous rebellion of being outright argumentative with her mother and fiance. (Today, her argumentation wouldn't be seen as un-Christian, or probably even all that rebellious, but then it certainly would have.) And, as if that weren't bad enough, the anachronisms of the story itself were distracting. For example, Emily's wedding, on New Year's Eve in 1912, took place in the "First Southern Methodist Church." That's amazing, since the SMC was not formed until 1940. Details like that abound and kept taking me out of the story.
So, an interesting concept was ruined in the execution.
For those interested, a word on the religion and race in this book. The Christianity in this book is very, very heavy-handed, to the point where it becomes pedantic. To each their own; I know some who like that. However, there are a lot of theological issues in this book that are specialized to certain corners of Christianity. If you object to God-as-magician (who walks around wearing a purple ascot and making sure brides get a pretty wedding dress), this is not the book for you. If you do not believe in tent revival healings or speaking in tongues, you also might be put off by some of the theology of the book. In addition, it is important to note that the way race is treated in this book falls under the trope of "white person as savior to black society," a trope that many find offensive. If you fall into that category, this is not the book for you.