Summer was on approach and I thought a good period fiction was just the ticket to kick-off the slow easy days of school break. After the first few chapters I realized fiction is like a favorite food: almost completely open to taste. I have a very particular taste and am extremely guarded with what time I do get to read fiction literature.... I'm only glad I had the time to spare for this one. I will try to weigh opinion carefully since fact can be found when extracting quality in fiction.
Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson is a story in reflection of five women sharing an apartment in 1950s Chicago. One day, when they just happen to all have time to knock about downtown together, they wander into Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co, try on and fall madly in love with a beautiful wedding gown and determine to all share the cost of purchasing since the price is far to steep for any one of their budget's alone. They work out a plan to share the dress when each of their weddings arrive.
This aspect of the story only consumes a small part over halfway through the 480 pages... most of which are actually spent sharing the drama of single/dating life in the world of post-war 1950s independent women. I was flustered by the constant darting around in the story between these 5 women and their associations because many of the transitions left me hanging on what would happen next and often did not return to clean up the loose ends. These cliff-hangers which were never completely reconciled left me perplexed and, at times, confused as to what was going on in the story.
The author mentions soap operas of the day on a few occasions and I finally made the connection that this story was written in Soap Opera style while at other points ringing more like scenes from Breakfast and Tiffany's. I felt like the bulk of the author's research was done through sultry movie scenes of period films though I am aware of the earmarks of good actual research on the period which this book does have, even if in frothy doses at times. Still the over-play of drama and dilemmas the characters find themselves in made it difficult to truly enjoy most of the young women and their companions in this story. I found myself frustrated with some of the poor choices and their lack of knowing or even growing to learn the appropriate way to manage their problems and challenges. Their perception of faith was skewed by their various religious beliefs; Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and so on. I never saw a real connection to relationship with Christ but rather a few occasions to obligation that their respective faith brought.
The book's final pages did nothing to help my perspective and opinion of this story, it left far too much to wonder with no sequel in mind. If you like soap operas and open-ended books, you will love this story. If you are like me, waiting for the climax of "You see Timmy..." and everyone skipping off holding hands in the sunset with lessons learned, hearts healed and problems solved.... then this book is NOT for you!
My opinion aside, a good Christian romance should offer redemptive qualities. The defining aspect of good Christian fiction is one or more character's walk before, during, and after understanding a need and ability to trust Christ as redeemer and helper. Whether someone of the faith grows deeper in their faith and understanding and exhibits those applications.... or someone outside of the faith enters into a relationship with Christ. This book had the potential to offer BOTH aspects with various characters but it offered none. It simply played into the dramatic flare of secularized Christianity.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House for my review. This review is my opinion alone.