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

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Review: The Sins of the Mother

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The Sins of the Mother

by Danielle Steel

Copyright 2012.

 

At age seventy, Olivia, a successful CEO of a hardware and furniture company, is still going strong. However, after her husband passed away years earlier, she feels guilty for working when she should have been around for her four children, now grown with lives of their own. She tries to make up for her neglect every year by scheduling an elaborate family vacation.

The book opens with such a vacation, a cruise in the south of France on a luxurious chartered yacht. Everyone has a great time and then returns to their separate lives. The book ends a year later with another family vacation in a rented chateau in France. In between time, Olivia’s older son’s marriage falls apart, and he falls in love with a younger woman. Her younger son is forced to come to terms with his son’s homosexuality. One of her daughters, a struggling writer, finally gets a book and movie deal and falls in love with her agent. The other daughter, a music producer in England, having been estranged from the family for years, finally comes home when tragedy strikes. Then there’s Olivia’s affair with her company’s attorney, a married man.

The Sins of the Mother was featured on BookDaily a few days ago, and I decided to splurge and buy it from audible now instead of waiting for my next credit. I’m glad I did. The narrator did an excellent job of giving each character a different voice. It’s always fun listening to an audiobook with a good narrator.

This book reminded me of Dallas, a primetime soap opera I watched as a teen. However, there’s no wheeling and dealing or deception or betrayal, no one accused of murder or other serious crimes. That’s one thing I liked about it. Another is that everything gets resolved in the end, and everyone’s happy. In the last episode of Dallas, J.R. Ewing, evil CEO of a powerful oil company, kills himself, convinced the world would be a better place without him. There’s none of that here. If you just want to read a heartwarming story about a family whose members put aside their differences and come together, The Sins of the Mother is just such a book.

I must admit this isn’t the kind of book my late husband Bill would have enjoyed. He was into mysteries, thrillers, westerns, and science fiction. The more blood and guts, the better, as far as he was concerned. To learn more about our recreational activities and how I cared for Bill at home for six years after two strokes paralyzed his left side, read My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

Author 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

Click to hear an audio trailer.

 

Review: A Week in Winter

A Week in Winter

by Mave Binchy

Copyright 2012.

 

After living in New York City for twenty years, Chickie returns to her home town, a seaside village in Ireland. She buys an old house and turns it into a hotel with the help of the elderly woman who owned it, a former gangster, and her niece. Despite the skepticism of family and friends, her business venture is a success. The hotel’s first guests are a cast of interesting characters including an American actor, a couple of English doctors, a Swedish accountant, and others. As their stories unfold, the hotel becomes a place of healing for most of them.

I like the way the author tells the story from the point of view of each of the characters, providing plenty of back story to help us understand them. In a way, it reminds me of Debbie Macomber’s Rose Harbor Inn series. Unfortunately, this is one of the last books Mave Binchy wrote before she died. It’s too bad because I would like to have read more books about Chickie and her hotel and each guest whose outlook on life change after staying there.

Before my late husband Bill suffered his first stroke, he and I enjoyed traveling together. In 2005 before our wedding, we took an early honeymoon trip to California, and in 2006 just before his first stroke, we spent two weeks in Colorado. He might have enjoyed a trip to Ireland to stay in a hotel like Chickie’s, although I doubt we could have afforded it. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

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Author 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

Click to hear an audio trailer.

 

One More Book

Note: I didn’t think I would finish this last night, but I did. Will go back to my regular end-of-month review schedule in January.

***

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins. Copyright 2014.

 

In Manningsport, New York, Colleen, a nurse who owns a bar and grill with her twin brother, is only too happy to do matchmaking and give advice to others seeking romance. Ten years earlier, her first love, Lucas, supposedly broke her heart so now she’s having nothing more to do with romance except for the occasional fling. When Lucas returns to town to care for his dying uncle, she tries to resist him, but love’s pull is too strong. She often encounters him in situations with other characters and sub-plots that make this a humorous story of love, loss, and reconciliation.

Throughout the story, the author inserts bits and pieces of Colleen’s and Lucas’s stories. At first, I found this frustrating because I wanted to know what would happen to the characters now. A brief overview would have sufficed, I thought. I soon realized the back story was necessary in order for the reader to understand why Colleen and Lucas broke up. As it turns out, Lucas didn’t break Colleen’s heart. It was the other way around, but I won’t say anything more about that.

Reading such a book helped me put my life in perspective. Colleen’s and Lucas’s lives were pretty complicated. Lucas’s mother died when he was young. As a teen-ager, he was forced to live with his uncle and aunt after his father was sent to prison for drug dealing. He had to deal with his uncle’s indifference, his aunt’s resentment, and his cousin’s irresponsibility and hero worship.

Colleen’s childhood wasn’t as traumatic, but when she was in college, her father divorced her mother for a much younger woman with whom he conceived a child. Also, her grandfather is dying in a nursing home, and she’s the only one in the family who cares about him. It’s nice to escape reality through a book, but it’s also nice to return to the reality of a life that isn’t nearly as complicated as that of the main characters in a story. Click here to learn more about Kristan Higgins’ books.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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