I know I know. One’s non-fiction, the other fiction. Still, there’s a bit of similarity between the two. Rachel Bertsche (the MWF) is a recent transplant to Chicago (via New York), in her twenties, married, and looking for some company. She is a real-life person.
The girls in Girls in White Dresses, on the other hand, are not.
Yet I felt that if Berschte were to meet these girls, she’d fit right in.
Or maybe that’s how I feel as a suburban, up till the wee hours with a newborn, mum in her thirties (34 in a few weeks time – yikes!), driving what my younger, single, up till the wee hours at the clubs, sister in the city-state of Singapore claims to be a very suburban mum car (a Nissan Murano, and I like it very much thank you).
Ok so maybe I sometimes look at my bedraggled milk-stained clothes and am a bit envious of being young single and part of city life. But then again not really.
Annnnddddd…. I have gone way off track here.
Bertsche’s bid to find new friends in her new city was pretty compelling perhaps because I am still struggling to make good friends here in the US. I’m not the outgoing sort and I guess I never made the sort of effort that is required. Bertsche decides to spend a year on friend-dates, one a week:
“Im looking for a Kate to my Allie. Six to my Blossom. Blair to my Serena. No one’s knocking down my door. If I want a new best friend, I’m going to have to go get one.”
She tries paid services, rent a friend (yes really), chatting up people on flights, attending events etc etc etc. It really takes a lot of work to find a friend!
“‘Shannon,’ Lauren said, ‘the guy wore two BlackBerrys on his belt. He wasn’t perfect.’ But this only made Shannon cry.”
This was a fun read, although I was initially hesitant about picking it up, uncertain about what I assumed to be chick lit. I’m not into genres much – as you might have noticed I read a decently wide variety like non-fiction, graphic novels, fantasy etc. But I do tend to steer away from books that seem a bit, erm, poofy. You know, with pastels and flowers on the cover and such. Judging a book by its cover? Yes, yes indeed. I also make sure I never go near anything that looks Anne Geddes-like but that’s just me.
So flowers on the cover? Hesitate… But its author Jennifer Close seemed to be mentioned in quite a few blogs I read. So up into the Kindle it went.
I don’t know if it was the book or just me, reading bits and pieces, sometimes in the wee hours of the morn, but it took me half the book to actually settle down and really enjoy it.
It was the story of Shannon and her boyfriend Dan who volunteers for the presidential campaign of ‘the Candidate’, and affects their relationship that made me sit up and think, hey, this isn’t too bad.
“When Shannon thought about it, the Candidate was probably responsible for all sorts of breakups. She and Dan were just the tip of the iceberg. All over America, boyfriends and girlfriends had been ripped apart in the name of Hope.
Shannon was angry that no one was covering this news story. People were talking about health care, but no one was talking about the Relationship Misery Phenomenon that the Candidate had caused.”
After reading these pages, I began to see the novel in a different light. And all these bits and pieces started popping out at me. And making me laugh – startling wee-er reader as he nursed or dozed on me.
Girls in White Dresses is a collection of anecdotes from a group of girls as they go through their relationships, as well as the many weddings and bridal showers they have to attend.
“You never want to be the first one of your friends to get married. If you are, just resign yourself to the fact that your wedding will be a shitshow. Most people are still single, open bars are a novelty, and no matter how elegant the wedding was planned to be, it will end up looking like a scene out of Girls Gone Wild.”
So it turns out to be somewhat anti-chick lit. There’s plenty of skepticism, alcohol and swearing. In other words, plenty of good moments:
“She was allowed a single tear. She was going to have a mother-in-law named Button.”
“But her yoga mat smelled like feet, which got in the way of her transcendence.”
“She offered Isabella a glass of wine and poured some red into two oversized glasses. “I’m not really supposed to drink if I’m breast-feeding, but fuck it. I just went nine months without a drink. Plus, I go crazy by the end of the day with just this little blob to keep me company,” she said, smiling at the baby.”
Jennifer Close has a new book out and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it.
Rachel Bertsche is the national bestselling author of MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend. Her second book, Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me: The Pursuit of a More Perfect Existence, One Celebrity at a Time, will be published in early 2014. In addition to her books, Rachel has written for the New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, More, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Fitness, Women’s Health, New York, Huffington Post, CNN.com, and more.
Jennifer Close is the bestselling author of Girls in White Dresses. Born and raised on the North Shore of Chicago, she is a graduate of Boston College and received her MFA in fiction writing from the New School in 2005. She worked in New York in magazines for many years. She now lives in Washington, DC, and teaches creative writing at George Washington University.