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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Thursday Book Feature: A Tale of War, Trust, Acceptance, and Love


The War that Saved My Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Copyright 2015.

Right before the start of World War Ii, Ada, age ten, and her brother Jamie, six, flee London to a village in the English countryside, along with other evacuated children, mostly to escape their abusive mother. Despite a club foot, Ada learns to ride and care for horses. Although a teacher claims she’s not educable, she learns to read, write, knit, and sew and becomes involved in the war effort. She eventually realizes that even though she has a disability, she’s not a bad person.

Told from Ada’s first person point of view, this book is written for children but in such a way that adult readers don’t feel as if the narrator is talking down to them. It was chosen by my regional talking book library’s discussion group.

I like the way Ada describes her abuse and later the explosion of bombs and the state of wounded soldiers. The author doesn’t try to shelter young readers from reality. War, trust, acceptance, and love are themes to which we can all relate. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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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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Thursday Book Feature: Any Day Now by Robyn Carr

Any Day Now

By Robyn Carr

Copyright 2017.

This is the sequel to What We Find, which I reviewed here recently. Sierra, a recovering alcoholic looking for a new start, moves to Sullivan’s Crossing, a campground in the Colorado mountains, to be near her brother Cal, a lawyer who is in the process of making an old barn into a home for his new family. She finds a job and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, makes friends, and becomes romantically involved with Connie, a fireman with his own emotional baggage. Then, her troubled past comes back to haunt her. Other characters have their own romantic experiences. The book has a satisfactory ending.

Since my late husband Bill grew up in Colorado, I enjoyed reading a book set in an area with which I’m somewhat familiar. It was a great way to escape to the Colorado mountains without leaving my recliner. I also liked the fact that it’s not necessary to have read What We Find first, since plots from the previous book are briefly summarized throughout this book.

I can also appreciate the message Robyn Carr delivers in this book about rape. I’ve never been a victim of such a crime, but I know someone who has. I recommend this book especially to anyone in this situation in the hope they might gain insight from Sierra’s fictional story of survival.

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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.

Like me on Facebook.

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After the Wedding Pawn (Fiction)

Author’s Note: I was inspired to post the following after reading Alice Massa’s story on Wordwalk last week. Alice and I are both involved with the same writers’ organization, Behind Our Eyes, and a few years ago when I was President, I gave the group several writing prompts having to do with weddings. You can click this link to hear me read my story.

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AFTER THE WEDDING PAWN

 

At the end of a long day of work, I used the tip of my cane to feel each step in front of me, as I climbed aboard the bus. When I put my token in the slot, the driver said, “Hi Frank, someone’s already in your usual seat, but the one next to it is empty. Don’t worry. I’ll still see you, and I won’t forget to tell you when I get to the corner of Mills and Watson.”

“Thanks Ed,” I said. After eight years of working at J. B. Lansing and riding the same bus back and forth every day, why was my usual seat now taken? I was too tired and frustrated to care. As I turned to walk to the next seat, the voice of the man in my seat stopped me cold. “Hey bro.”

Oh great, I thought. Wasn’t it bad enough that my new boss couldn’t work with my blindness, despite the fact that for the past eight years, I was proactive in improving the company’s computer system and that I was dedicated, with an excellent employment record? Now, here was my brother, back to make my life miserable again. “I’ll move over so you can sit here,” he said, and I heard his body shift from one seat to the next.

At least he had some manners this time, I thought, as I took the vacant seat, folded my cane, and grasped the pole in front of me, as the bus lurched forward. I turned my head in his direction and sniffed. What, no booze? I sniffed again. “I’m dry as a bone,” said Jess. “Have been for about as long as you’ve been working at JBL.”

“How did you know I was working at JBL?”

“Mom told me. She always wanted us to make up.”

“Yeah, even though she sacrificed her ring so I’d have one to give to Jackie at our wedding after you got drunk and pawned ours at the last minute. It was bad enough I couldn’t afford to buy her a good ring, but then you had to steal it.”

“I don’t remember doing that, but yes. She and Dad always respected your wishes. You didn’t want to have anything more to do with me so they didn’t have you over when I was there, and you didn’t want them to even mention my name so they didn’t.”

“But she told you all about me? Did she tell you that after you pawned Jackie’s ring, there almost wasn’t a wedding? Jackie told me for months beforehand that she didn’t trust you as best man, that I should ask my good buddy Jerry to stand up with me instead. I wanted to give you one more chance, and you blew it. When I got to the altar, Jackie almost didn’t say I do. I had to get down on my knees, literally, and promise her I would always listen to her and never trust you again.”

“That’s why when you and Jackie came to the rehab center for Family Day, in front of all those people, after Mom and Dad said they forgave me for the third time, you said you wouldn’t have anything more to do with me until I paid you back the two hundred and fifty dollars the wedding ring cost. You said I shouldn’t bother darkening your door unless I came up with the money.”

“So you decided to take my seat on the bus instead?”

“I didn’t know it was your seat. Mom just told me which bus you ride to and from work.”

“So your last time through rehab actually worked? You haven’t had a drink in eight years?”

“After you said you didn’t want to have anything more to do with me until I paid you back for the ring, I knew I had to make it up to you, that I had to give you and Jackie a reason to trust me, for good this time.”

“So what did you do when you got out of rehab?”

“You know I’ve always been the athletic type, and you’ve always been the brains of the family. I should have listened to Mom and Dad when they told me there was more to life than football.”

“But you didn’t, did you?”

“Even before I turned nineteen, I had to drink to forget I wasn’t college football material. The fact that you were always ahead of me and passing just about everything with flying colors despite being blind didn’t help.”

“So what did you do after your third stint in rehab?”

“I figured if I couldn’t play football professionally, I could teach it. With Mom and Dad’s blessing and some financial support, I went back to college and this time, I majored in physical education. You’re looking at the P.E. teacher and football coach at our old school, Waverly High.”

I turned my head in his direction, not believing what I was hearing. “You mean that?”

“Yep, it wasn’t easy, but I’m proud to be where I am today.”

“Way to go, dude,” I said, thumping him on the back.

“Mom told me your son Chad is seven and playing soccer, and your daughter Amber is five and starting ballet. I hope to still be at Waverly High when Chad gets there. I’ll teach him a few things about football and about life.”

All I could say was “Wow.” I pinched myself and shook my head to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. “Oh, by the way, I almost forgot something,” said Jess. “Give me your hand for a second.”

To my surprise, I found him counting bills into it. “A hundred, two hundred, twenty, forty, and fifty, there you go.”

“What the…”

“You said you wouldn’t have anything more to do with me until I paid you back what I owe you for the wedding ring so here it is. Your little brother’s not a loser anymore.”

Dazed, I folded each bill separately before placing it in my wallet. “Hey Frank, here’s your corner,” the driver called, as the bus jerked to a stop.

“Come on, bro,” said Jess, grabbing my arm and pulling me to my feet. “Let’s go buy Jackie a new ring.”

I pulled my arm free and took his. “Oh sorry buddy,” said Jess. “I forgot. It’s been a long time.”

I didn’t know what to think, as he led me off the bus and down the street to a nearby jewelry store. As we stood at the display case, waiting for assistance, Jess said, “Oh wow, look at that ring. It looks just like the one you were going to give Jackie.”

“How would you know? You said you don’t remember the ring.”

“I don’t remember pawning it, but I sure remember what it looked like, almost like Mom’s ring which you gave Jackie instead. It’s too bad Jackie isn’t blind. If she were, she probably wouldn’t have known the difference.”

“You know, Jess, I may not be athletic, but I do know how to throw a punch, and if I didn’t have a wife and kids to support, I’d risk doing some jail time just to hear your body hit the floor.”

“Hey Frank, I’m sorry, really I am. I didn’t mean that. Jackie’s a good woman. You’re lucky to have her. Maybe someday, I’ll find one just like her.”

“May I help you?” said a woman’s voice.

“Yes, we’d like to see that ring there,” said Jess. My brother wants to buy it for his wife. He’s blind so he needs to feel it.”

I hated the idea that Jess and others thought they needed to speak for me because of my impairment but let it go for now. “Oh this ring would be perfect for your wife,” said the clerk, placing it in my outstretched palm. “It has a gold band and one gold stone in the center. If it doesn’t fit her, we can always re-size it.”

I was amazed when I felt the ring. “You’re right, little brother. It’s just like the other one,” I said, fighting back tears. “How much is it?”

“We have it on special for two twenty-five,” answered the clerk.

“Wow, bro, you still have twenty-five dollars to spend,” said Jess, as I paid her.

“How come Jackie doesn’t drive you to and from work?” he asked, as we walked the few blocks to my house.

“She’s got a lot to do as it is, getting the kids to and from school, soccer practice, and ballet class. Next year when Amber starts first grade and is in school all day, she’s thinking about going back to work, at least part time, if the newspaper will hire her again.”

As we strolled up the front walk, Jess said, “It looks like Mom and Dad are here. Dad’s Plymouth is parked in the driveway.”

My talking watch announced it was six o’clock. “That’s funny. I don’t remember inviting them to dinner.”

“Surprise!” I was startled by the voices that greeted us, as we walked in the front door. I shook my head.

“Happy birthday, bro!” said Jess, thumping me on the back.

It was my birthday. With all the stress I’d been having at work and Jess showing up all of a sudden, I’d forgotten about it. “Did you know about this, little brother?”

Jess only laughed.

“Who’s that with you, Daddy?” said Amber, as she approached us.

I was still holding Jess’s arm, and I felt him bend down and tousle the little girl’s hair. “Hey cutie, I’m your uncle Jess.”

“What’s he doing here?” said Jackie.

I reached into my pocket and took out the ring in its box. “Honey, I have something for you.”

“It’s your birthday, and you’re giving me a present,” said Jackie, as she took the box. I heard her open it and the rattle of tissue paper. “Oh my God, it’s my wedding ring. Where did you find it? Oh honey, happy birthday. I love you.” A moment later, I was in her arms.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

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That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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