This is a fabulist, wondrous story about a girl, the guy whose been in love with her for most of their lives, and her grandmother.
Scientist Cora Sparks lost her parents in a house fire when she was a young child. Her grandmother, Etta, raised her, and they are very close. Etta owns a very special dress shop, where the dresses pick the customers, Etta adds a few special stitches and the customers find their lives changed – a bit fantastical yet somehow believable in van Praag’s fine hands.
In the book shop down the street, Walt, the owner, has been in love with Cora since the first time he laid eyes on her when he was just ten years old. Walt has another job besides the bookstore; he reads books aloud on the local radio station each evening, and women are falling in love with him because of his voice. But he has no interest in any of them.
Unbeknownst to Walt, his boss at the radio station is answering all his fan mail, and eventually strikes up a correspondence with Milly, a young widow. Despairing of ever winning Cora’s heart, Walt meets Milly and they form a relationship, but he doesn’t know about “their” letter correspondence.
Meanwhile, Etta is determined to get her granddaughter’s mind out of just her work and to get her to realize that Walt has feelings for her. Etta’s magic starts a lot more than she expected – Cora decides to try and find out how her parents died. The fire was ruled an accident, but Etta tells her she was never convinced of that.
There are several storylines here that flow seamlessly together and make the pages fly by. This truly is one of my favorite reads this year, and were it in my power, I would make everyone who reads this review go read this book! It reminded me a bit of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern but not quite as complicated, or maybe more like The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – it has that fairytale quality to it.
I loved this magical read, and just might read it again – which is high praise indeed.
10/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS by Menna van Praag. Ballantine Books (December 30, 2014). ISBN 978-0804178983. 336p.