Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson tells the story of five different women who come together to share an apartment in Chicago in the early 1950s. Their different work schedules and social lives leave them with little time for interaction, but one rare Saturday when they are all free, they decide to go shopping in town. They’re not shopping for a wedding dress, but they see one in a shop window that stops them in their tracks. Just for fun they decide to go in and try it on. By the time they’re done, they decide to pool their resources and buy the dress together so each of them can wear it. One girl will store it and send it to the one getting married, and each bride will have it cleaned and send it back to the girl who is storing it. The last bride gets to keep it.
The five girls:
Betty is from a rich family in Chicago who is pressuring her to marry a man she doesn’t love.
Joan immigrated from England to meet up with her pen pal, Evelyn, to live and work in Chicago. She’s working multiple jobs to send money back home and has no time for or interest in dating…yet.
Evelyn’s father is a Georgia farmer, and she is more or less expected to marry another farmer, but she wants something more from life.
Inga is breaking free from a very strict Lutheran home in Minnesota. She finds a job as a stewardess and a boyfriend in LA, but is going after her ambitions in the wrong way.
Madga is Inga’s bookish sister, who finds a job in a publishing firm and has secret aspirations of writing her own book one day.
I didn’t realize, until I got to the author’s note at the end of the book, that this was based on a true incident (it was mentioned in the acknowledgements at the beginning, but it didn’t click as I read the story). Joan’s story was factual, and while the other girls were made up, Joan really did buy the dress with four other roommates, and each of them wore the dress.
Overall it was an enjoyable story. I liked the era: you don’t see much fiction written in this time following recovery from WWII. I don’t often read romances, but it was fun to follow the girls’ different journeys and see how things worked out for them. With their bosses, coworkers, love interests, friends, and families, it was a little hard sometimes to keep up with who was whom, but usually it just took a second to get oriented when the scene or point of view changed.
The girls all live together in the first part of the book, but in the latter part they are scattered. The first one marries and goes to live with her husband, one goes to work overseas, one goes home brokenhearted, one goes home under a cloud, and the fifth stays in Chicago but has to find a different place. It seemed to me that after they separated, the story splintered and felt a little rushed at the end. We didn’t see one of the girl’s weddings, though the others’ were described, but we did see her legacy, so I guess that offset it. One of the girls whose marriage started out with the most problems is not heard from much again after the wedding: she was the one I most wondered whether everything worked out for her.
This is not a big deal, but one thing that I found irksome was how often the author referred to people pointing – some 67 0r so times, and often in situations where I would find it odd for people to be pointing. Maybe she is just more demonstrative than anyone else I know. As I said, not a big deal, but once I noticed it, it began to grate every time I’d see it again.
I would call this inspirational fiction rather than Christian fiction. The girls are from a variety of religious backgrounds, some more devout than others, and I wouldn’t quite agree with everything in that department in the book, but it is probably historically accurate.
There are others of Eva’s books I have enjoyed much more than this one, but it’s a nice story with clean romances.
Genre: Inspirational fiction
Potential objectionable elements: An unwed pregnancy, but details are not explicit.
My rating: 6 out of 10
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)