Friday, August 26, 2011

Review & Tour Stop: Little Black Dress by Susan McBride

Little Black Dress by Susan McBride
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: I received an uncorrected proof to participate in a TLC Book Blog Tour.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the publisher):
Two sisters whose lives seemed forever intertwined are torn apart when a magical little black dress gives each one a glimpse of an unavoidable future...
Antonia Ashton has worked hard to build a thriving career and a committed relationship, but she realizes her life has gone off track. Forced to return home to Blue Hills when her mother, Evie, suffers a massive stroke, Toni finds the old Victorian where she grew up as crammed full of secrets as it is with clutter. Now she must put her mother’s house in order—and uncover long-buried truths about Evie and her aunt, Anna, who vanished fifty years earlier on the eve of her wedding. By shedding light on the past, Toni illuminates her own mistakes and learns the most unexpected things about love, magic, and a little black dress with the power to break hearts . . . and mend them.

Little Black Dress is a powerful novel about family, love, forgiveness, and second chances. When Toni arrives in her hometown after her mother Evie suffers a stroke, she is intrigued by the black dress her mother had been wearing and the pile of old photographs she had been sorting through when the stroke hit. And when Hunter Cummings arrives at the house, talking about some kind of business arrangement he had with her mother, she is even more confused, since his family and hers had been at odds ever since her Aunt Anna canceled her wedding to his father. As Toni waits for her mother to come out of her coma, she attempts to organize and de-clutter her mother's house, bringing to light long-buried secrets about her family that she hadn't expected. As she examines her mother's past, she also finds herself re-examining her own life and relationships.

The book is told from two points of view, in alternating chapters. Evie's chapters are told in first-person and Toni's chapters are told in third-person, focused on Toni and her thoughts. Toni's chapters are basically in chronological order, while Evie's chapters consist largely of flashbacks to past events, providing the reader with insight on the secrets that Toni has uncovered.

I loved the magical element of the story, which is represented by a magical little black dress. I don't want to give away all of the secrets of the black dress, so let's just say it goes way beyond perfectly fitting each of the women who put it on. The element of magical realism in this book reminds me a bit of Sarah Addison Allen. There is a different feeling to Ms. Allen's books, but I think fans of her books would probably enjoy this book as well.

Even though there are magical elements to this story, the relationships all felt very realistic and believable as I read the book. I devoured the pages, wanting to find out what happened to Anna after she called off her wedding to Davis Cummings. I kept hoping she had found true happiness in her wanderings, and I was surprised by the unexpected way that she re-entered Evie's life and the results of it. At times I found myself annoyed with some of the characters' choices and attitudes, but they were always choices and attitudes that were truthful to human nature. This book wonderfully portrays life in all of its turbulent and erratic glory, pulling the reader into unexpected territory over and over again. I really enjoyed it. I also think it would be a great choice for book clubs.

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