I had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses, interviewed at BEA this year, and was also lucky to get a signed ARC of her book while there. It comes out this August.
Girls in White Dresses follows the lives of a group of college friends (all women) after graduation – through jobs, boyfriends, weddings, breakups, showers and babies – until they are in their early 30s. The chapters are almost like short stories, except that characters recur throughout the book, and the narrative is chronological. Each chapter basically checks in the characters at a particular turning point in her life before moving on to someone else.
During her BEA interview, Close talked about how she had been a bridesmaid in many friends’ weddings, and that she thought of her 20s as a time when she felt pressure to keep up with her friends who were reaching milestones like weddings and babies, perhaps earlier than she had. I remember that feeling so well – the sense that I was “behind” because I wasn’t engaged like so many of my friends were. It felt like a horserace back then, with the goal to make it around the track at least somewhere in the middle of the pack. I, too, was a bridesmaid many times over and can remember the complicated feelings those events often conjured in me, always reflecting my then-current situation and how satisfied I was with it.
Looking back now, of course, all the pressure and anxiety seems so silly. Why didn’t I just enjoy those years?
Anyway. I really liked Girls in White Dresses – I think Close very accurately captures those confusing, sometimes isolating 20s. I heard her compare her writing style to that of Melissa Bank in The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, and I totally agree. Her writing is spare, to the point that her characters seem almost unemotional. And there is a lot that goes unsaid and unexplained in the book. The chapters are vignettes, so whole swaths of time are skipped. But I still found this to be a pretty satisying read. I occasionally had trouble remembering which character was which when a chapter opened, but ultimately it didn’t really matter. The themes of friendship, figuring out who you are, and the pursuit of a suitable mate are amply explored here, and I laughed in recognition (and sympathy) many times.
Girls in White Dresses comes out on August 9. It’s so rare that I actually read a review copy this long before the book comes out – this may be a first! If you are interested in reading it, leave me a comment here and I will try to remember to email you when it hits shelves!