For The Someday Book

Book Review: The Funeral Dress

Posted on: November 16, 2014

The Funeral Dress, by Susan Gregg Gilmore, Broadway Books, New York, 2013, 356 pp.

Funeral DressA good story with good characters that moves quickly and leaves me feeling good is like eating candy for me. I just keep unwrapping one chapter after another, without counting pages or calories or being concerned in the least about whether it’s good for me. One bite after another until it’s all gone. That’s what reading The Funeral Dress has been like for me–sweet and tasty and pleasurable, without any concern for profound questions. It’s escape fiction, with a feel-good spirit.

The Funeral Dress tells the story of Emmalee Bullard, a young woman with a brand-new baby who has never known a mother’s love herself. Just when she finally has an opportunity to escape her hard life and find someone who will care for her and her child, everything is taken away. Leona Lane is her co-worker at the sewing factory, but she and her husband Curtis die in a car accident the day before she is to pick up Emmalee and the baby. Emmalee responds by stepping up to make Leona a funeral dress, which draws the ire of the town and the attention of a variety of people interested in her life and her baby’s welfare. Some are genuinely caring and concerned, others are simply in it for themselves. The Funeral Dress unfolds the story of the days between Leona and Curtis’ death and funeral, with flashbacks that tell the story of Emmalee’s childhood, love and pregnancy, with flashbacks to Leona and Curtis’ own ups and downs in marriage.

The novel contained some of my favorite story elements–a woman living in hard circumstances finding her own way, the power of relationships between women, the twists and turns of changing relationships caused by her new outspokenness, and a sense of hope and encouragement without a fairy tale ending. The Funeral Dress was a good story well told, a fast read, and a fun escape.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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