The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan – Book Review

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

In 1947, Frances Gerety needs just one more thing for the advertising campaign she’s working on. Just a signature line for the De Beers account. Hastily, in the middle of the night and desperate for sleep, Frances jots down a short phrase: A Diamond is Forever. Gerety’s story, that of a woman who is single by choice and helps create the “tradition” of the diamond engagement ring is set against the story of three different families with three very different relationships.

The Engagements is a beautifully written exploration of love, marriage, and the association diamonds now have with both of those things. All four sets of lives – Gerety and the three families – feel incredibly realistic, showcasing many of the difficulties of marriage, as well as the unique nature of any individual marriage.

I loved The Engagements. Loved it! I started reading it at a time when I only had a few minutes to read it each day and that made it a little difficult to get into, what with the four rotating story lines. Once I cleared some time and sat down with The Engagements, I flew through it and didn’t want to put it down for anything. When you take time with it, the characters come alive, their stories and their joys and pains engulf you.

The Engagements is absolutely wonderful. Very highly recommended.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

 

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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.

Buy this book from:
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Source: Publisher.
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