The Red Dress #Thursday Book Feature

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.Today, instead of a review of another book, I’d like to share a review of my own new book, The Red Dress, written by someone else. Former radio host Bonnie Blose interviewed me this past Sunday night about my writing and the book at a meeting of Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities, of which I’m president. Since Bonnie write such wonderful reviews for a book discussion email list to which I subscribe, I asked her to write a review that I could post here, and she did. Please note this contains spoilers. Enjoy!

Bonnie’s Review

Is there a piece of clothing which brings painful experience flooding back? Does it symbolize the power of love and heartbreak for you?

In her new novel, The Red Dress, Abbie Johnson Taylor creates this moving scenario through just such a dress created for her main character, Eve Barry, for her high school prom.

Who hasn’t dreamed of all the senior prom will be? While it may not turn out as the beginning of a romance that will last for life, it is filled with romantic dreams and expectations long cherished and planned.

For Eve Barry, the prom ends in tears and heartbreak. She discovers her date and best friend in each other’s arms, acquainting her with hurt and heartbreak she will never forget.

Twenty-five years later, Eve has moved on. A successful writer of young adult fiction, she has a happy marriage and is the mother of three. As we all do, Eve receives a notice of the upcoming class reunion, but she has no wish to attend. Her daughters have heard about that red dress. Daughter Julie is looking forward to her own prom and wants to wear it.

In a moment of hurt and anger during her first semester of college, Eve’s roommate borrows it  to attend the homecoming dance Eve has no desire to attend. With one word, the dress is gone.

Life is filled with regrets over things we have done and choices we have made. Objects of significance play an important part in our memories as this red dress certainly does for Eve. Is it possible Charlene still has the dress? Should she try to get it back for her daughter? Will seeing it again bring painful memories  back?
One day, while going through email, Eve receives a friend request on Facebook from Charlene she accepts. Soon, she  discovers Charlene has a daughter  Brenda the same age as her younger daughter Ashley. Brenda and Ashley begin exchanging messages and become fast friends.

Ashley tells her mother something is not right with her new friend Brenda. She never leaves the house, preferring to stay with her mother. When they learn Charlene has a short time to live, Ashley wants desperately to go to California to meet and support her friend.

Eve wants to go but knows she has trouble at home. Her older daughter Julie has just begun a new  relationship with the son of her former best friend Adele who betrayed her on that long ago prom night. Now seventeen, Julie is going through the rebellion and angst so often a part of adolescence. Eager to make her own decisions, she clashes with her mother over everything. Maybe it would be best if they had a little time apart!

Eve is experiencing doubts about her marriage, too. Why is Greg so distant? Will he grow close to Chad’s mother as Julie is doing with Adele’s son Chad? Will she have a similar experience with pain and heartbreak her mother had at the same age? Is it possible some trips should not be taken, or must faith be found in the opportunity to mend fences.

Eve and Ashley go to California to spend time with Charlene and her family.

In the end, we learn  Charlene’s husband and children understand the place they have in her life. It is true. Some people love themselves first and foremost and only. Can you ever be complete or happy if dreams remain  unrealize?  Most of all, is it possible for those dreams to have more importance than love? It is a question many of us might ask ourselves late at night when time for deep and reflective thinking is with us as our only  companion.

Taylor’s novel is emblematic of life. Through growth, we may know ourselves better but learn hard truths and the importance of forgiveness. Wisdom and knowledge of ourselves or others does not guarantee happiness any more than forgiveness will, but it is the first step in living which comes with  nothing promised except the opportunity to do and be our best.

 

Bonnie’s Biography

I grew up in Slatedale, Pennsylvania with two fabulous storytellers. For 15 years, I cohosted Jordan Rich’s book show nights on WBZ. From 2006 to 2013, I was the host of the show Books and Beyond on Acbradio.org.
My memoir, “The Art of Dying,” was a winner in the nonfiction category of the NFB Writers’ Division competition, eventually appearing in Magnets and Ladders. In 2019, I received first place for my story “A Heartfelt Revenge” in the NFB’s Writers Division competition fiction category.
I enjoy reading, listening to music, podcasts, and have lived in Ohio since 1982. I am proud of being owned by my cat almost. My son Kevin lives in a nearby town.

New! The Red Dress: A Novel

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

My Other Books

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.
Like me on Facebook.

Talking Dirty

Thanks to the Magic of Stories for inspiring this post. Karen J. Mossman talks, in a way, about creating a balance between being realistic and providing an escape for our readers.

Can you think of any scenes where people go to the bathroom? I’m going to be vain and tell you that in my memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I talk about going to the bathroom a lot. In one scene, I’m making oatmeal, and my husband Bill, totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes, is sitting at the kitchen table in his wheelchair. Suddenly, he says, “Oooh, I gotta pee. Oh, it’s too late. I wet my pants.” This gives my readers an idea of what I went through as a caregiver.

What about farting? In Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, there’s a scene in which a high school football coach flatulates while lying in bed, reading the newspaper, much to his wife’s annoyance. This gives you some idea of what kind of guy the coach is. Bill also liked to expel wind through his posterior, but I couldn’t find a way to bring that into my story, since it wasn’t related.

How about belching? I’m going to be vain one more time and give you an example from a short story I wrote several years ago that hasn’t yet been published. It’s called “Living Vicariously,” and it’s about a Catholic family dealing with issues related to religion. In one scene, a teen-aged girl who has lied about attending confirmation classes, is eating dinner with her father in a pizza joint. She’s drinking Dr. Pepper, and she says she doesn’t want to be a nun because she doesn’t want to give up the beverage. Then, she birps for emphasis. Here, I’m showing you her character.

Eating is another bodily function often portrayed. One great example of this is in the book Prizzie’s Honor. Charlie, a mafia crook, is eating lunch with his boss. It’s an Italian ten-course meal. This emphasizes the irony that evil people enjoy the good things in life.

I suppose we ought to talk about sex, but I’d rather not. None of my work has vivid descriptions, and frankly, such scenes bog a story down. Hand holding, kissing, and embracing are enough to show the reader two people are in love.

What do you think? Do bodily functions, including sex, enhance a story or slow it down too much?

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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