Synopses & Reviews
Wry, hilarious, and utterly recognizable, Girls in White Dresses
tells the story of three young women grappling with heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love — all while suffering through an endless round of weddings and bridal showers.
Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are going to be bridesmaids in Kristi's wedding. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, eat tiny sandwiches, and drink mimosas. They're all happy for Kristi, but they do have the ups and downs of their own lives to cope with. Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, where she's extremely successful, and wildly unhappy. Mary is in love with a man who may never love any woman as much as he loves his mother. And Lauren, a waitress at a midtown bar, finds herself drawn to a man she's pretty sure she hates.
With blind dates and ski vacations, boozy lunches and family holidays, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.
"Artfully spare prose adds a literary tinge to the chick lit staples navigating relationships, bridesmaid duties, disappointing first jobs explored in Close's debut collection. At their weakest, the stories owe too much to their predecessors: 'The Showers,' in which the recurring characters travel to a suburban bridal shower, is essentially a retelling of a snappier Sex and the City episode, and Isabella's boss in 'Blind' has the dark shades of The Devil Wears Prada. The standout moments come in 'The Peahens,' when Abby reveals her unusual family and her struggle to fit in (she 'studied hard, taking notes on the silver link bracelets all the girls wore'), and the sharp 'Hope,' when Shannon takes a backseat to her boyfriend's naive political passion for 'the Candidate' of a presidential campaign. Occasionally funny (as when Isabella refers to her dinner dates as 'parallel eating'), but without the risk taking of The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing or the deeply explored emotion of Prep, these stories will resonate with readers in the throes of the quarter-life churn who can see themselves in the cast. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"What a delight! The young women in this hugely appealing book are charming, funny, rueful, poignant — just like their creator, in other words, one of the freshest and most appealing new voices in fiction. I can't wait for more work from Jennifer Close." Ann Packer, bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Swim Back to Me
"Mixed in with the trials and tribulations of the protagonists are humorous vignettes from the lives of some of their other friends and acquaintances — many of whom are on their way to the altar or trying to find a way to get there....Reminiscent of Melissa Bank's The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. It is modern and funny, with original, wry observations. Close's debut novel will appeal to both fans of contemporary women's fiction with a hip vibe and readers who enjoy old-school chick lit." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"These Girls are smart, funny and extremely engaging. You will adore them and their poignant — and often hilarious — romantic yearnings." Danielle Ganek, author of The Summer We Read Gatsby
"The only way to express my love for Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close is to tell you that this is the one book that I will be recommending over and over again to all of my friends. I laughed, I cried, I nodded knowingly as the characters waded their way through the hits and misses of their twenties and thirties. I can't remember the last time I loved a book as much as this one." Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The One That I Want and Time of My Life
"Girls In White Dresses is a dark, funny, intimate romp through boyfriends, first apartments, and great friendships — but beneath the surface lurks the jealousy, disappointment, and love that didn't quite end up the way you thought it would. Jennifer Close's brilliant, deadpan humor made me laugh so hard my own roommate thought I was nuts." Margot Berwin, author of Hothouse Flower
"If Elizabeth Bennet were post-collegiate, hungover, lovelorn and living on the Upper West Side, she would definitely be rooming with the Girls in White Dresses. This debut is hilarious, warm-hearted and wise, and I couldn't put it down." Holly LeCraw, author of The Swimming Pool
About the Author
Jennifer Close was born and raised on the North Shore of Chicago. She is a graduate of Boston College and received her MFA in Fiction Writing from The New School in 2005. She worked in New York in magazines for many years and then in Washington, D.C., as a bookseller. Girls in White Dresses is her first book.
Reading Group Guide
1. Which character did you relate to most closely, and why?
2. How does Close use humor to convey character? Are the women themselves funny, or the situations they find themselves in?
3. Ambivalence—toward jobs, men, apartments, and children—is a recurring theme in Girls in White Dresses. Why do you think that is?
4. What did Isabella learn from JonBenét?
5. Several of the characters keep some pretty big secrets, such as the way Abby keeps her friends away from her hippy parents. How does this affect Abby’s life? How do the book’s other secrets affect the characters?
6. What is the metaphor of the peahen?
7. On page 98, Isabella thinks about her young nephew, Connor, “All he wanted was to know what to expect. His world didn’t look like he’d thought it would, and she understood. How could he keep calm if he couldn’t see?” Who else does this describe?
8. Why does “the ham” become so significant for Lauren?
9. Mary wonders why nobody warned her that during her first year as a lawyer, “You will be constantly afraid.” (page 120) What role does fear play in the women’s lives?
10. “Kristi and Todd stood with their shoulders touching, wrapped in the cloth. It reminded Isabella of the way that Lauren and Kristi used to huddle together, whispering and laughing at jokes that only they understood.” (page 174) Why does Isabella get so emotional during the “chuppah within a chuppah” wedding scene?
11. Connect the dots between Shannon, Dan, Barack Obama, and the contestants on “The Biggest Loser.” Why is hope so important?
12. Throughout the book, questions of identity pop up. For example, when a friend gets divorced and decides to keep her married name, Isabella thinks it may be because, “She’s afraid no one will remember who she is.” (page 249) How do these characters determine who they are? By the end, who seems to have created the strongest sense of self?
13. What is the turning point for Isabella in her relationship with Harrison?
14. Why is Lauren ready to call the turtle Mark gives her Rudy, when she wouldn’t use that name for the goldfish?
15. Discuss the last scene. How have the women changed over the course of the book? Who is the most satisfied with her life?
16. Where do you imagine Isabella, Mary, and Lauren will be in five years?