Friday, September 13, 2013
The Funeral Dress
Author: Susan Gregg Gilmore
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Broadway Books
A deeply touching Southern story filled with struggle and hope.
Emmalee Bullard and her new baby are on their own. Or so she thinks, until Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat by her side at the local shirt factory where both women worked as collar makers, insists Emmalee come and live with her. Just as Emmalee prepares to escape her hardscrabble life in Red Chert holler, Leona dies tragically. Grief-stricken, Emmalee decides she’ll make Leona’s burying dress, but there are plenty of people who don't think the unmarried Emmalee should design a dress for a Christian woman - or care for a child on her own. But with every stitch, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town’s funeral director. In a moving tale exploring Southern spirit and camaraderie among working women, a young mother will compel a town to become a community.
Based in a small Southern mining town that's fallen on hard times, Emmalee attempts to foster independence at 16 by taking a job at the local sewing mill. There she meets Leona, a woman who's worked there for years with the reputation of being slightly sour in attitude.
Both have longings and dreams, though both are trapped in this town with no plans to leave it. Leona lost a baby early in her marriage and was never blessed with another one - she has always longed for a full family. Emmaline has a drunkard for a father who distressingly tends to forget at times that she is not his dead wife.
When Emmalee has a baby and desperately needs to escape her confused and alcoholic father, Leona sees an opportunity to have that baby she always wanted in her home, even if it's not hers.
But fate interferes and takes a dark turn. When Leona is no longer able to help Emmalee, she tries to offer the best she can to Leona - in her own way. An even darker turn appears when someone decides it might be best if Emmalee doesn't raise her own baby and they feel it's in the baby's interest for them to do something about it.
A story of Southern small town hardship, people coming together, and redemption in themselves. As always Susan makes the characters come alive and you can feel their emotions jump from the page.