Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close – Book Review

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

The post-college years can be a relationship minefield. You begin to drift away from the friends who marry and have children significantly before – or after – you do; finding new friends and lovers becomes more difficult as you are no longer routinely thrown together in school with people in a similar age bracket and with similar interests. It is this limbo in which Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are firmly stuck. They are out of college and on their own: in nice apartments in Chicago and crummy shoebox ‘apartments’ in New York; in good relationships and dating idiots who cannot spell their names correctly; in nice, stable jobs and the worst of the worst waitressing jobs. In the middle of all this, they are scraping up cash for bridesmaids dresses, wedding shower presents, wedding presents, and baby shower presents, as it seems that everyone they know seems to be moving into that settled state of coupledom and familydom.

Girls in White Dresses is less a cohesive narrative than a collection of anecdotes about Isabella, Mary, Lauren, and their friends as they attempt to navigate young adulthoood. Rather than causing the readers to feel disconnected from her characters, though, Close’s structure lent her story a sense of universality. No matter what your post-college path or choices, it is likely that you will identify with one or more of the girls’ stories. Many of the vignettes in Girls in White Dresses are laugh out loud funny, as is this scene at a bridal shower when the bride’s mother’s friends all begin singing My Favorite Things:

They kept singing and started swaying back and forth. Abby was standing unfortunately close to the woman who’d started the singing, and the woman wrapped her arm around Abby’s shoulders, forced her to move in time with the music, and looked at her with an encouraging smile until Abby started to sing along with her. A few of the women were snapping their fingers. Lauren looked at Isabella and Mary and said, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, right?” -p. 171

Others, however, are poignant and thoughtful, as when Lauren and Isabella discuss a recently-divorced friend who has elected to keep her married name:

“Why wouldn’t she go back to Beth Bauer?” she asked Lauren. “She doesn’t have any kids. It’s so weird.”
“I don’t know,” Lauren said. “Maybe she’s afraid no one will remember who she is.”
“Maybe,” Isabella said. The thought left her uneasy. -p. 249

Close’s humor and grace is intensified by her lovely and engaging prose, creating in Girls in White Dresses a book that readers will be hard-pressed to put down.

Highly recommended.

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