Monday, July 14, 2014

The Funeral Dress

The Funeral Dress
by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  Emmalee Bullard is on her own with a new baby.  She has no husband, no running water in her house, no know-how about caring for an infant, and no help from her cruel father, who's furious she got herself into this situation.  Only Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat beside her sewing collars on the neighboring machine at the local shirt factory, has befriended her.  Much to Emmalee's wonder, Leona even offers her a place to live.  But before Emmalee can jump at the chance for a better life, Leona is in a terrible accident, and her life is lost, along with Emmalee's chance for escape.

Emmalee decides that since nothing in Leona's closet is nice enough to wear for eternity, she'll make Leona's burying dress herself, though there are plenty of people who don't think someone who has so obviously sinned should design a dress for an upstanding woman-or care for a child on her own.  While relatives scheme to get custody of her baby and the local church tries to keep her away from Leona's funeral, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town's funeral director.  In this moving tale exploring Southern spirit, camaraderie among working women, and the power of compassion, a young mother compels a town to become a community with every stitch.
From the book jacket

Review:  This was a very touching story about how women take care of each other and watch over those in their community.  I really enjoyed reading about how so many women at the factory were willing to help Emmalee out even though she didn't know it.  I wasn't sure how much story would be in this book based on the description but the author does an amazing job of describing Leona's early life via flashback chapters and also describing earlier moments in Emmalee's life and showing how their two lives were connected more than Emmalee knew.  Character development is clearly one of the author's strengths because I could picture each character no matter if they were a kind woman from the factory or Emmalee's drunk father.  The one complaint I have with the story is Emmalee's speech.  The story takes place in the back country of Tennessee and Emmalee grew up in such squalor but she did attend school until she was almost 16.  But yet her grammar was not great and she used ain't all the time.  She sounded so much less educated than anyone else in the book.   Perhaps the author was trying to show how young Emmalee was compared to the other characters but her grammar did not help her be strong against other strong characters.

Rating:  4 stars

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