Review: The Funeral Dress
Emmalee’s mother died when she was young and her father was never much of a parent. When she was 17, her father insisted she quit school and get a job and she did just that – sewing collars at the Tennewa Shirt Factory. Emmalee finds herself in the family way and struggles once her daughter is born. Her father’s no help and she doesn’t know where to turn when an offer comes from one of her co-workers. Emmalee and her daughter are going to live with Leona and her husband, Curtis.
Tragedy strikes, though, and Leona and Curtis are killed in an accident the night before Emmalee is to move in with them. Beside herself with grief, Emmalee feels she must do something to honor the woman who befriended her. With no resources, she turns to the one thing she can do, and decides to sew Leona’s funeral dress.
The Funeral Dress, by Susan Gregg Gilmore, is a wonderful coming of age story filled with grit and determination. Emmalee is a wonderful character who is somewhat naive in spite of her rough upbringing. She finds herself in a tough situation and doesn’t know how to cope. Luckily one of her co-workers comes to her aid. Tragedy prevents her from helping but knowing that someone cared about her is enough to spur Emmalee to action.
This is not only Emmalee’s story, it’s Leona’s, too, and the point of view alternates between the two. Emmalee’s story is set in the present and Leona’s in the past, so readers discover how these two women with tragic lives came together. Their stories are sad, to be sure, but they had an affect on each other that was ultimately uplifting.
This book is sure to please anyone who enjoys Southern fiction and stories of women’s friendships. It’s Gilmore’s third book and I think it’s her best one yet. Be sure to pick it up!