December 29, 2011

Review: The Magic Room

My mama's dress
I suppose I should confess upfront that I've never been shopping for a wedding dress. I had always liked my mother's wedding gown, so when Todd and I got engaged and it turned out that her dress fit me, I considered that item easily crossed off my planning list. (My mother and I both, in turn, would have killed to wear my grandmother's stunning 1940s wedding dress. But she, ever the practical WWII-era bride, cut it off soon after the wedding and gave it a second life a cocktail dress. Darn frugality.)

The latest read in the BlogHer Book Club is The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow. The "magic" mirror-lined room of the title, where brides go to pose in potential dresses, is found upstairs at family-owned Becker's Bridal in tiny Fowler, Michigan. Zaslow alternates the story of four generations of Becker family store workers (this was the most interesting part, for me) with profiles of recent brides who visited the store.

Prior to reading, I wondered if my lack of wedding dress shopping experience might make it hard for me to connect with the book. But in the end it was the author himself who was the stumbling block. I never got past his disdain for women who had sex or even (gasp!) children prior to marriage (They shouldn't wear white? Are you kidding me?); his near-fetishization of four sisters who chose not to kiss anyone until engaged or married; his unexamined fondness for a "traditional" past in which daughters deferred to their parents and people stayed married, no matter how awful those marriages were. Nor could I get past the total lack of acknowledgement of the women who were glaringly absent: no bride (or family member, for that matter) is gay in this book, nor (from what I could tell from the pictures) are there any people of color.

In his opening, Zaslow said that he wanted to write about love between parents and daughters. A look at societal changes in various individuals' and families' attitudes around marriage could have been an interesting way to go about that. Instead, the book struck me as judgmental and shallow, celebrating only a narrow set of values and experiences.

Disclosure: This post is compensated as part of the BlogHer Book Club. I got $20 and a book--whoo!

1 comment:

Teresa said...

I had a very similar reaction to the book. It certainly wasn't what I expected. I was looking forward to the exploration of the father daughter relationship.

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