Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: The Magic Room

Don't judge a book by its cover. Or maybe the lackluster cover is a good reflection of the shop featured in the book. From the outside, the former bank building that houses Becker's Bridal is nothing fancy. But inside are thousands of wedding dresses, a staff with decades of experience, a mirror that has captured the reflection of hundreds of thousands of future brides, and countless stories.

The introduction did not grab my attention and was pretty weighty. I kept on reading. Once the first chapter began, Zaslow's conversational writing style and keen observations totally got me interested.

Zaslow follows eight brides through their process of finding a wedding dress. Along the way, we meet their families and their fiancées. Not every story has a picture perfect ending.

I loved how he balanced these stories with real-life facts and figures. This isn't a romance novel. This isn't about one bride finding "the one" for a dress and a groom. It's a very good look at the bridal gown industry. He illustrates the changes in the bridal business over the last 50 years or so. Now brides expect to be waited on, fawned upon and be the "princess for a day". Brides can take cell phone photos of dresses and then search the internet for lower priced knockoffs. In the 50s, parents bought the dress and often had the final say and in the 30s dresses were often handed down from sister to cousin to neighbor.

I also enjoyed how he came back to each bride at the end of the book to share details of their weddings and often a photo of the bride in her Becker's dress. He features women with very different stories and backgrounds. I found it an interesting coincidence how many of the fathers worked in packaging.

I especially liked getting to know Shelley, the current owner and granddaughter of the indomitable Grandma Eva who founded the shop, along with her mother and daughter who also work in the shop. They have taken the legacy of Grandma Eva and turned it into a must-stop bridal store for brides in the Midwest.

While I didn't have a Magic Room experience when bridal dress shopping, I did have it when prom dress shopping. The ladies who worked at Emma's Bridal in Dedham found a dress for me that was stunning. I stood up on the pedestal and they all ooohed and ahhed. So I remember how magical that moment can really be when you put on a dress that makes you look and feel like you are walking the red carpet.

This is a very well-written book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be passing it along to my mom and friends. 

This is a paid review of The Magic Room by Jeffery Zaslow for the Blog Her Book Club. All opinions expressed are mine.