Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
336 pages

The main character's sister in What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day is the focus in the delightful sequel to Pearl Cleage's debut novel. I Wish I Had a Red Dress tells the story of Joyce Mitchell, a widow who is determined to help the young women in Idlewild while finding inner peace.

Joyce is strong and optimistic despite losing her husband, parents, and children over the course of her life. She started a support group called the Sewing Circus to assist young mothers and spends countless hours setting an example and teaching them life lessons. There are challenges with funding, but Joyce works with her members to make ideas come to fruition to keep their program running.

While Joyce is concentrating on her serving her small town, she meets a handsome new staff member of the local high school, Nate Anderson, through her friend's maneuvering. Joyce is instantly attracted to him, but she is not sure is she's ready to date again. Nate understands her hesitation and respects her needs. When a member of the Sewing Circus is in danger with her ex-boyfriend Joyce and Nate work together to ensure the girl's safety.

By the novel's end Joyce decides to wear the red dress Nate bought for her and start the next phase of her life. After all her recent experiences she feels free enough to embrace a new love and continue her civic service without grieving over her past. Joyce has found the strength and healing she needed to move on. The theme of living life to the fullest regardless of the circumstances is eloquently demonstrated with maturity, respect and wisdom.

Quotations from I Wish I Had a Red Dress:

"I wish I had a red dress. I've been wearing black for so long I feel like one of those ancient women in the foreign movies who are always sitting around, fingering their rosary beads and looking resigned while the hero rides to his death on behalf of the people, or for the sake of true love, which is really six of one, half dozen of the other, when you think about it." (3)

“Life is much harder than anybody can possibly tell you, but it doesn’t matter because even if they could, you wouldn’t believe them and what good would it do anyway?” (8)

“A free woman …is someone who can fully conceive and consciously execute all the moments of her life.” (19)

“What’s the point of fighting for the truth if you’re not allowed to tell it?” (22)

“The advantage of faith in moments of crisis and transition is that when the rest of us find ourselves swimming in guilt, fear, confusion and second-guessing, the true believer simply goes with the flow.” (23)
“Come on,” she said. “Can you really imagine a world without men?” “Absolutely,” I said. “It’s a peaceful place full of fat, happy women and no football.” (27,28)

“Sometimes you have to give the correct even when you’re not really feeling it yet so you can hear how it’s going to sound when you finally get it together for real.” (31)

“We all laughed then, partly because it was funny, but partly because forgetting how to have a good time on Saturday night is as lethal as smoking crack. It just takes a little longer to kill you.” (61)

“If you did feel free, what would you do differently?” I looked at him. “Everything.” (258)

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