Writing by Kyle Freelander
Out of college and forced into the “real world,” Jennifer Close’s novel Girls in White Dresses follows the lives of a group of girl friends as they strive to find their place in the world. The novel focuses on Isabella, Mary, and Lauren –their struggles with finding a job, paying rent, love, starting a career, etc. all while they watch other friends in their circle “succeed” at these things. They watch as their friends get married, have baby showers, and pop out children while they are still trying to figure things out. Through humorous anecdotes involving the various female characters, this book appeals to the new adult crowd (especially those fresh out of college) who are watching in disbelief as their friends are getting their “grown up” lives together while their own life seems to be in shambles. Through this novel, Close reaches out to her readers and tells them to keep hanging in there even if things don’t fall into place right away. The pieces will fall as they may and the picture will still be beautiful, even if it isn’t a complete fairy tale.
As someone who is the same age as these characters towards the start of the novel, I found it very easy to relate to this book. It is easy to question if you are on the “right track” or if you are doing things “wrong” when all of your friends are getting engaged/married/having children/picking out dishwashers/moving to the moon/etc. This book was nice in that it used a group of female characters to show that everyone’s lives pan out differently –that it is all a series of choices and has to do with your priorities in life.
At first I was unsure of the book’s style. Let me explain. From the back cover (and my description above), you read that there are going to three main female characters yet, in the first section, you only meet Isabella. I was confused as to how the other characters fit in when I got to the end of that section and they still hadn’t been mentioned. Once I got through the next section though, I began looking at this book less like a novel and more like a short story collection. It is made up of different sections that focus on a given character at a time (sometimes even told with a fourth or fifth girl as the sort of “main” character of that section) that works together as a coherent whole and allows Close to jump large spans of time…aging her characters several years by the books end. In a way though, that is nice because you get a realistic timeline for the characters lives and you, the reader, gets to focus on the truly interesting aspects from these various friends’ lives. This style also made it easy to find a breaking point (after any section) although the book overall, for me at least, was a quick read.
All in all, this book was a nice little slice of life for this group of friends that I think new adults would find particularly relatable.