The Dress Shop of Dreams. Finished 1-21-15, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 336 pages, pub. 2014
Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.
Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.
I fell under the book’s spell even though Cora is not a warm and fuzzy person. She exists only to follow in the footsteps of her genius scientist parents who were killed when she was only five years old and to visit her grandmother at her dress shop with a side trip to the bookstore three days a week. Walt works at the bookstore and has been in love with Cora since they were kids but his social cluelessness has not moved the relationship forward even an inch. So, Grandmother (Etta) takes matters into her own hands (literally) by using the magic of her needle and thread to open Walt’s heart and then Cora’s, but the best intentions do not always lead to the best results and the two go off on different paths entirely.
I loved Etta and the special gift of her dresses, and this small aspect of magical realism made the book sparkle and shine. If there were a dress shop like Etta’s in Cleveland you can be sure I’d be stopping by. It’s the dress shop that lends the book its lightness since everything else is much more serious in nature. Every storyline starts with a lie. Etta has one she’s been keeping for 50 years and Cora’s search into her parent’s deaths lead to more lies and betrayal. Walt gets himself a girlfriend under false pretenses and Henry, the policeman helping Cora, knows that a lie is at the heart of his divorce. Once the truth starts coming out then all can be forgiven. Maybe.
It had me charmed from the beginning and once I started I didn’t want to stop. I only wish that maybe it could have been a little bit longer because there were so many secondary characters with their own stories that I felt a little shortchanged at the end when Cora found her truth. Perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen