Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Susan Gregg Gilmore's The Funeral Dress


The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore
Contemporary Fiction/Southern
Released: September 24, 2013
Broadway/Random House

Emmalee Bullard dropped out of school to begin work at the Tennewa Shirt Factory at age sixteen when her father refused to take her to school anymore and demanded she find a job. She is paired with Leona Lane, a long time employee, whose own life could have mirrored Emmalee’s but for some of the decisions she made. Leona teaches Emmalee everything she knows about sewing and soon a friendship is borne between the older woman and this younger girl. When Emmalee gets pregnant by a local boy three years later, Leona sees Emmalee struggling to be mother and father to her baby all the while having no one to help her. She offers Emmalee the chance to get out from underneath her father’s thumb by asking her to come live with her and her husband. Leona lost her own son years ago and was unable to have anymore. Leona knows Emmalee could be a good wonderful mother if she is just given the chance and the baby would give Leona another chance at love.

When an accident claims Leona and her husband’s life, Emmalee finds herself adrift again with no relief in sight. Her baby’s father is unable and unwilling to help her; a victim of his family’s ambitions. Disappointed by the life she could have had before Leona died, Emmalee wants to honor Leona in the only way she knows how. She wants to make Leona’s funeral dress. While some of the town rebels against the idea, they don’t feel an unmarried mother should have that right, the funeral director gives her the chance. Using some fabric Emmalee finds in Leona’s home, Emmalee begins the dress, pouring her heart and soul into it’s making. Each stitch holds a dream, a prayer, and a hope for a chance to do right in her life for her daughter. When the town divides on whether Emmalee should be allowed to keep her baby, Emmalee finds she has more friends then she knew and a wall of courage that holds true as she begins the fight to keep her daughter.


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