Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Review: The Magic Room

Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of The Girls from Ames shares an intimate look at a small-town bridal shop, its multigenerational female owners, and the love between parents and daughters as they prepare for their wedding day.

Thousands of women have stepped inside Becker’s Bridal, in Fowler, Michigan, to try on their dream dresses in the Magic Room, a special space with soft lighting, a circular pedestal, and mirrors that carry a bride’s image into infinity. The women bring with them their most precious expectations about romance, love, fidelity, permanence, and tradition. Each bride who passes through has a story to tell—one that carried her there, to that dress, that room, that moment.

Illuminating the poignant aspects of a woman’s journey to the altar, The Magic Room tells the stories of memorable women on the brink of commitment. Run by the same family for four generations, Becker’s has witnessed transformations in how America views the institution of marriage: some of the shop’s clientele are becoming stepmothers, some are older brides, some are pregnant. Shop owner Shelley has a special affection for all the brides, hoping their journeys will be easier than hers. Jeffrey Zaslow weaves their true stories using a reporter’s research and a father’s heart.

The lessons Zaslow shares from within the Magic Room are at times joyful, at times heartbreaking, and always with insight on marriage, family, and the lessons that parents—especially mothers—pass on to their daughters about love. Weaving together secrets, memories, and family tales, The Magic Room explores the emotional lives of women in the twenty-first century. -- Gotham

This month, our book club decided to read THE MAGIC ROOM: A STORY ABOUT THE LOVE WE WISH FOR OUR DAUGHTERS by Jeffrey Zaslow. I have to say that I wasn't jumping up and down about this selection because the book didn't really appeal to me. While I am the mother of a teenage daughter, and of course I want her to find true love and happiness, I wasn't really interested in reading stories about women shopping for bridal gowns. I won't go so far as to say that I was dreading reading the book, but I did wait until almost the last minute to read it.

I suspect THE MAGIC ROOM was written as a tribute of sorts to the love parents have for their daughters, and I liked it more than I expected to. I found some of the women in the book to be quite interesting and I admit that I was touched at times by their stories; however, for some reason, the book didn't resonate with me like it could have. Maybe it's because I haven't even thought about Booking Daughter dating nevertheless getting married, but I never really got caught up in any of the stories.

Basically, THE MAGIC ROOM follows the lives of some unique brides who all end up buying their bridal gowns at the family-owned Becker's Bridal in rural Michigan. These brides have some very interesting backgrounds and family dynamics, but the one thing they have in common is the excitement they experience when they enter Becker Bridal's Magic Room. The Magic Room is a special place in Becker's Bridal with soft lighting, a circular pedestal, and lots of mirrors where brides go to make sure they have their dream dress!

THE MAGIC ROOM gives glimpses into these women's lives, sharing their dreams, secrets, successes, and losses, as well as their relationships with their families. In addition, Ms. Zaslow offers the history of the Becker family and their personal insights into how wedding dress shopping and family dynamics have changed over the years. I thought the concept of the book was great, and I liked how the author switched up stories about the brides with stories about the Becker women. What fell short for me, though, was how the book was written. It just seemed a little "distant" for me given that the topics were so emotional.

I wasn't alone in my opinion of THE MAGIC ROOM. I don't think any one in my group felt passionately either way about the book. No one loved it and no one hated it. A few of us felt like the book was repetitive and had a "reporter" feel to it despite dealing with some very heartfelt stories. But what I found really interesting is that we apparently liked the book for different reasons. Some of the group really liked the information about how weddings and dress shopping have changed over the years while others enjoyed the personal stories more.

I do think THE MAGIC ROOM was a good pick for our book club. All but one of us are mothers of daughters and, of course, we all have been married. There is a reading guide available with twelve interesting questions; however, I'm pretty sure we didn't really use many of them for our discussion. What made our meeting extra-special was the care the hostess put into the evening -- she had a wedding theme. She served a sparkling wine and various wedding cookies; and she had those little mints and Jordan almonds on the table. In addition, we brought our wedding albums to share; and she even had a "favor" of a tulle-wrapped candy and a precious little silver angel ornament. Too cute!

I admit that the one thing that affected me the most about THE MAGIC ROOM was actually the author's Acknowledgments section. He wrote these words and brought me to tears:

Someday, perhaps, I'll have a chance to be a father of the bride. I know that when the search for a bridal gown begins, I'll think back to the wise advise I received from Shelley, her staffers, and all the Becker's brides and their parents. They taught me that a bride should make the final decision about which dress is "the one." What a parent thinks is secondary. My job as a father will be simple. My job will be to tell my daughters that I love them.

Tragically, Mr. Zaslow died in a car accident last year and won't have the opportunity to share this special time with his daughters. It just breaks my heart.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I read The Girls from Ames, primarily because I was drawn to the story of high school friends sticking together for decades (I have a few friends like that). And I think I know what you mean...the author's prose isn't all that warm, but more like a reporter. Still, loved the idea of Ames and I love the premise of this one too.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

That's too bad this one didn't work out, because the premise seems good (sort of bridal-salon-instead-of-cooking-school or something!)

bermudaonion said...

This probably isn't for me. I don't have a daughter and have never gotten all excited about the trappings of a wedding.

Serena said...

I like the premise of this book, but I think that the "reporter" feel could become tedious.

Alyce said...

Oh that is so sad about him dying! I like the bridal dress shop show on TLC, so I'm curious if I would like this.