Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow

Loved, loved, loved Jeffrey Zaslow’s nonfiction book, The Magic Room: A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters. But, here’s my warning. I cried over numerous chapters. One of my cats even crawled into my lap to purr since he thought something was wrong. But, I’m “mushy,” and many of the stories in this book touched my heart.

Zaslow is the bestselling author of The Girls from Ames, and coauthor of The Last Lecture. He knows how to write to the heart. He’s the father of three daughters, so it was interesting to see his account of Becker’s Bridal, a shop in Fowler, Michigan. It’s the story of four generations of women involved in owning and running the shop. That story is entwined carefully with the stories of eight of the brides who came to Becker’s for their wedding dresses. That’s eight brides, out of more than 100,000. And, there’s a little bit of Fowler in the book as well, a small town dependent on Becker’s in many ways, but, also with some resentment toward the business and all the brides who make a pilgrimage there.

Zaslow wanted to tell the story of Eva Becker, who started and ran the business until she was seventy-five, when her son and daughter-in-law forced a sale of the business. He told the story of Clark and Sharon Becker, who worked there for years until their daughter, Shelley Becker Mueller, the present owner, took over. And, then there’s her own daughter, Alyssa, who has decisions to make about the business and her own life. His account is the story of a business, grounded in realism, where there is still a place for “The Magic Room.” And, grounded in realism, with a place for magic, could be the story of some of the brides Zaslow tells about.

What do those brides carry in their hearts and minds when they step into “The Magic Room” upstairs? It’s a room lined with mirrors that carries their image into infinity, a place they only go when they’ve made the final decision as to their dress. Zaslow was looking for stories about brides who understood that marriage is more than a wedding, and it was those brides that he followed into “The Magic Room,” and then to their actual wedding. There’s the bride who was also a recent widow, the bride who showed up Becker’s with her grandmother, the forty-year-old who was a first time bride. Zaslow tells the story of women facing their marriages with maturity, understanding that life is about the marriage, not just the wedding dress. Those were the moments that made me cry. He said the weddings were all starting with a sense of hope and optimism. He was looking for something more.

Zaslow said, “I guess I wanted to stand in the Magic Room with those families whose stories touched me the most and white there, contemplate my feelings for my own daughters.” He wanted to find brides and families who gave great thought to “the love that guides and connects them.” He steered away from the stories of brides who “Think they know the kind of wedding dresses they want, but they don’t have a clear sense of the kind of life they want, or the kind of man who might best accompany them.”

By combining the stories of the business and the brides, showing that it isn’t all froth and romance, Zaslow’s book actually becomes an examination of the changing roles of weddings and marriage in society. At the same time, those stories of eight brides, who didn’t go into their marriages blindly, do offer hope. Jeffrey Zaslow’s The Magic Room provides a realistic examination of brides, marriage, and the business of a bridal shop. At the same time, there’s so much love and hope in this book that I recommend a box of tissues.

The website for this book, and the author, is

The Magic Room: A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow. Gotham Books. ©2012. ISBN 9781592406616 (hardcover), 285p.

FTC Full Disclosure – Library book


Kaye Barley said...

Lesa, I have had my eye on this book. It looks lovely and fascinating. I've resisted because I just don't know if I'm emotionally prepared! I usually love a good cry while I'm reading, but this one may be a more extended cry than even I'm ready for. still thinking about it though.

Karen C said...

WOW - quite a review. I think this is going on the list.

Lesa said...

Loved this book, Karen.

Nancy said...

This books sounds intriguing.

Lesa said...

I hope you get the chance to pick it up, Nancy.