“When I finally said good night and went inside, I headed straight for my room and peeled off the dress. I packed it away in an old flowered hatbox and stowed it on my closet shelf, hoping it would stop whatever it was doing and leave well enough alone. But the dress had other plans, of course.”
Evie and Annabelle are sisters. Toni is, well, it’s best if the author explains who Toni is in the novel. The story’s conflict begins when Annabelle runs away from the man she is to marry. It really upsets her parents when she doesn’t marry Davis. Throughout the novel are the repercussions of what happens when family doesn’t forgive other members of the family and live day after day with past regrets
“While my father had withdrawn from his gregarious self, rarely smiling or laughing, my mother had simply withdrawn. Too tormented by migraines to do much but lie in her darkened bedroom, she wasn’t often up and about. More frequently, she hid herself within her womb of drawn drapes, a perpetual grimace on her face.”
The magic in the novel is fantastic. No matter the size of the woman wearing it, the dress will fit that woman. When the dress is torn, it’s magically restored again. I could go on and on about the powers of this dress. Would I want to have such a dress in my family? I don’t know. Would I like to find a hatbox with a dress, photos and letters or post cards from the far pass in it? Yes. Family heirlooms are precious.
“Toni looked so intently at Anna in the dress that her head pounded. It was the same one, she was sure of it, the exact black dress she’d worn last night…It was Anna’s dress and Evie’s dress, which made no earthly sense. For that to work, the thing would have to be woven from something stretchy and as malleable as Silly Putty, not delicate silk.”
I especially liked Annabelle. Although, she is the wild one. She is the one who leaves Davis, a man who can bring his wealth into the family. Anna is very mixed up. Her confusion leads her away from the family for years. When she returns, she brings back a special gift for Evie.
“I’m leaving you with the most precious thing I have,” she went on, and I sat there numbly, the lump in my throat so large I was unable to swallow.”
The novel is as magical as the little black dress. The women are weak and strong proving the female psyche is complex. I think that men some times just follow in step behind us. Toward the end of the novel secrets pop open like balloons stuck with pins.
“How many other skeletons hid within the closets of the old Victorian? Toni had grown up inside these walls, yet she had never known any of this.”
I was in awe until the very end when something very strange and happy happens. By the way, I’m going to buy a new “little black dress.” Maybe the dress will have the smell of the Lily of the Valley. Perhaps, the dress will tell me my family history.
“If her mother hadn’t stroked out, if Toni hadn’t come back to Blue Hills, if Bridget hadn’t nagged her about cleaning up the clutter, she never would have run across these precious bits of Evie’s history. Her history.”