Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Magic Room

Title:  The Magic Room
Author:  Jeffrey Zaslow
Publication Information:  Gotham Books. 2011. 285 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book is a paperback "advanced uncorrected proof."

Favorite Quote:  Little moments can come to define acts of love.

The Magic Room - with the subtitle A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters - is a look at our hopes for love, weddings, and marriages through the stories of the owners and customers at Becker's Bridal in Fowler, Michigan. Becker's Bridal, established in 1934, has provided wedding dresses for thousands of brides over the years. The brides come in, try on dresses, pick a few that are possibilities and then hopefully find the "one". That is the dress each bride tries on in the Magic Room. With a pedestal for the brides and lots of mirrors, it's a chance to appreciate the one perfect wedding dress and the hopes and dreams of the bride and those who come with her to shop.

The book follows and slowly tells the story of several brides. Chapters move back and forth between the different characters, alternating between the stories of the women who run Becker's Bridals over the years and some of the brides that come to shop there. Each one brings their own story - finding and losing a love, recovering from abuse, ensuring that love survives trials that come, maintaining choices and values in a world that is taking a different direction, losing a parent, and others.

The story of the Becker women moves through the generations and focuses on the family relationships through the years. The stories of the other brides are told in three parts - when they first come to Becker's, when they return for their second fitting, and at the time of the wedding. Sprinkled throughout the book is evidence of research and background information that broadens these individual stories to a commentary on our society and how it has evolved.

The challenging part of the book is the movement of the chapters between the different characters. Getting to a chapter heading (some of which are based on the character names), it often becomes necessary to flip back to get the continuity of that particular story. Sometimes, that structure makes the stories seem drawn out. However, presenting each story in its entirety and sequencing the book that way would not have the same impact this setup does.

The book ends up not focused on "the love we wish for our daughters" but rather more broadly focused on relationships and family dynamics. It does not make a central point, but rather alludes to many different family issues and topics. The individual stories range from heart warming to heart breaking. The characters are brought to life through the words and the snapshots. The book presents information but seamlessly builds it into the story. The first reading of the book was really the story. Perhaps, a second read may focus more on the research and facts presented. 

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