Title: Little Black Dress
Author: Susan McBride
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“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.”
Thoughts: Little Black Dress by Susan McBride is one of those charming but forgettable woman’s lit stories. Revolving around a mysterious black dress and its impact on three members of a family, the dress now falls into the hands of the next generation at a time of another family crisis. Secrets will be revealed, and everyone will find their happily ever after in predictable fashion.
This is not to say that Little Black Dress is a horrible novel that no one should read. It is charming in its own right, as such novels usually are. Antonia is a strong character, determined to forge her own path through life, even when it takes her away from her loved ones. She has a strained relationship with her mother, filled with unspoken needs and wants and harmed by years of secrets, just as Evie’s own relationship with her sister was damaged so many years ago.
Where Ms. McBride does excel is in the details. Whether she is describing the Mississippi River or a winery, the reader is transported to Blue Hills, Missouri with little effort. She acknowledges the improbable at the same time she is incorporating it into the story, i.e. a dress made out of silk spun by spiders that is indestructible. The jokes made about the origins of the dress do much to dispel one’s inability to believe.
Little Black Dress is at best a cute story. It is not going to change the world. It is not going to cause any epiphanies. Rather, it will allow the reader to spend an enjoyable afternoon getting to know Toni and Evie, and may even cause just one reader to pick up the phone and reach out to an estranged relative or friend. Every novel should result in such actions.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to Megan Traynor from William Morrow for my review copy!