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The Secret Lives of Dresses
by Erin McKean

Published: 2011-02-10
Kindle Edition : 296 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members
Dora has always taken the path of least resistance. She went to the college that offered her a scholarship, is majoring in "vagueness studies," and wears whatever shows the least dirt. She falls into a job at the college coffee shop, and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary.

Just when she's ...
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Dora has always taken the path of least resistance. She went to the college that offered her a scholarship, is majoring in "vagueness studies," and wears whatever shows the least dirt. She falls into a job at the college coffee shop, and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary.

Just when she's about to test Gary's feelings, Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke. Dora rushes back home to Forsyth, NC, and finds herself running her grandmother's vintage clothing store. The store has always been a fixture in Dora's life; though she grew up more of a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of girl, before she even knew how to write, Mimi taught her that a vintage 1920s dress could lift a woman's spirit.

While working there, Dora befriends Mimi's adorable contractor, Conrad. Is he after Dora, or is working from a different blueprint? And why did Mimi start writing down--and giving away--stories of the dresses in her shop?

When Mimi dies, Dora can't get out of town fast enough and cedes control of the store to her money-hungry aunt who wants to turn it into a t-shirt shop for tourists. But ultimately, she returns to Forsyth, willing to battle whatever may stand in the way of her staying there. Dora can trade her boring clothes for vintage glamour, but can she trade her boring life for one she actually wants?

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D O R A H A D A R H Y T H M G O I N G , O R I F N O T

a rhythm, a pattern, and it went something like

downshift, wipe tears away with back of hand, sob,

upshift, scrub running nose with horrible crumpled fast-

food napkin, stab at the buttons on the radio, and then

downshift again. That had been the order of things for

the past two hours. The first two hours had been pure

howling, crying so hard she almost couldn’t see, but then

it had slowed down, a torrent turning into a spitting rain.

Still bad weather, but not impassable.

The cars ahead of her, shiny boxes linked like beads,

stretched as far as she could see. Whatever was causing

the traffic was as yet undetermined; it could be construc-

tion, an accident, the sudden declaration of a state of

fascist emergency and its concomitant checkpoints and

ritual presentation of papers. Or it could be that Dora had

died, and that this was her hell, her punishment for all

her white lies and petty sins, stuck driving in miserable

traffic to her grandmother’s sickbed forever, without a

clean pocket handkerchief or even her iPod.

Her iPod was still jacked into the shop’s stereo. She’d

left the coffee shop in a rush, throwing her apron at Amy,

and run for the car. Didn’t bother stopping at her apart-

ment; what could she need more than Mimi?

Poor Amy, left alone on the Friday of Parents’ Weekend,

with all the boisterous alumni leaning over the counter to tell her that they used to work in that same coffee shop, all the freshmen trying to sit a bit too far from their parents

on the off chance that their classmates would take them for strangers, people coincidentally sharing the same table and the same nose.

Amy must have called Gary, or waited until Gary came

in after the lunch shift and asked where she was, because

there was a text on her phone: r u oj? Gary was usually

too impatient to finish keying a text correctly. Dora sup-

pressed the urge to text back, “the glove doesn’t fit.” Gary

wouldn’t get it.

Dora was not going to think about her next shift now.

Dora wasn’t going to think about Gary, or the coffee shop,

or anything that wasn’t Mimi.

Another two hours of sobbing and downshifting, ignor-

ing equally the deliberately pretty country roads near the

college and the gantlet of fast-food restaurants along the

interstate, until finally Dora was pulling into the drive-

way of the house on Yorkshire. She fumbled for her keys

at the front door; it had been four years since she’d lived at

home, but the front door key of the little house in Forsyth

never left her ring.

She turned on the hall light and shut the door behind

her. “Gabby?” she called. Maybe she was at the hospital.

But Dora barely had time to walk into the kitchen and

drop her bag on the counter before she heard Gabby com-

ing down the stairs.

“Gabby!” Although her apricot perm was fluffed up

and her coral lipstick firmly drawn on slightly wider than

her actual mouth, Gabby looked tired. And older.

“Sweetie . . .” Gabby folded her in a hug. “I was just view abbreviated excerpt only...

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by Jude L. (see profile) 03/22/20

  "The Secret Lives of Dresses"by Wendy R. (see profile) 05/20/11

This story is about a directionless woman finding direction in her life. It is an enjoyable read with moments of genuine humor. The "secret life" stories of the dresses are an added dimension to the... (read more)

  "Kept my attention"by Glenda W. (see profile) 04/03/11

This was not the kind of book that I normally read but I found it interesting and fun. The stories behind the dresses made me stop and think about what tales my clothes would tell if they were able. Not... (read more)

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