Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Lies in White Dresses by Sofia Grant

Sofia Grant's Lies in White Dresses takes readers back to 1952, and to a subject that I haven't seen
addressed in a novel before. Do you know about Nevada's residency requirements for people seeking divorces during that time? It wasn't always easy to get a divorce in the U.S. In her author's note, Grant explains that Reno put itself on the map in 1909 by shortening its residency requirements to six months. By the 1950s, that requirement had been shortened to six weeks. The proprietors of the ranches and hotels where women stayed were often their witnesses in court, saying the women had lived there for the required six weeks. A hotel, the residents of it, and three women who arrive in Reno to take "The Reno Cure", are the focal point of this story.

Francie Meeker and Vi Carothers have been friends since they were young married women. Now that they both have adult children, their husbands want divorces. Francie is embarrassed to talk about her husband, Arthur, while Vi finally gives in to her cheating husband, and agrees to a divorce so he can marry his girlfriend. They take the train from San Francisco to Reno. It's on the train that Vi befriends June Samples, a young woman with a four-year-old daughter, Patty. June's fleeing an abusive husband, and it doesn't take long for Vi and Francie to figure that out.

When the women arrive in Reno, Vi insists that June and Patty share her suite at the Holiday Ranch. That first night, the three women head to a restaurant and bar, leaving Patty in the capable hands of Virgie Swanson, the twelve-year-old daughter of the hotel owner. But, a night that starts out as celebratory ends in a tragedy that will change the lives of everyone involved.

For those of us who grew up after the 1950s, this is a historical novel of the lives of women who were promised a happily-ever-after with Prince Charming after a big, white wedding. That's not how it always was, or even is today. But, Grant focuses on those women whose sons went to war, women who protected children who had disabilities, women who lied to themselves about their own feelings and relationships. It's about the lies women told, and the secrets they kept in order to keep their marriages intact, While Virgie comes across as a naive preteen who dreams of being a detective, and gets carried away with her investigations and ideas, Francie comes across as naive at times, too. She may have raised three children and moved in a small social circle, but her view of the world is somewhat limited. It takes a few hard knocks for Francie to see reality.

The multiple viewpoints in the story allow the reader to understand the time period, and the characters' emotions. Francie, Vi, and June are all well-developed as characters, while Virgie adds a touch of humor to the story. The Author's Note, and the Reading Guide are useful in providing background and a thoughtful view of the book. Lies in White Dresses is a serious story of families, and women, learning to move on and live lives that they never expected.

Sofia Grant's website is http://sophielittlefield.com

Lies in White Dresses by Sofia Grant. William Morrow, 2019. ISBN 9780062861863 (paperback), 384p.

Purchase link - https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062861863/lies-in-white-dresses/
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a TLC book tour.


Gram said...

I enjoyed The Dress in the Window, but seemed to have missed The Daisy Children so will read that one first - it is in large print at my library.
They are stand-alones and do not have to be read in order, but that one sounded good to me.

Lesa said...

I agree, Gram. I haven't read The Daisy Children, either, but I do have a copy in a TBR pile.

Glen Davis said...

I remember reading several books that mentioned the Reno divorce that were written in the 30's 40's and 50's.

Sara Strand said...

I'm highly curious of that time period and what life was like, I always am completely absorbed into the book. I have to add this to my list thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours