Ballantine, Jun 2002, 21.95, 304 pp.
By 1865, the war is over, but Virginia still has to recover. Sisters Victoria and Julia Atwater mourn the losses of their husbands, Confederate soldiers who died fighting, but have little time to grieve as survival is a daily chore. However, their seventeen-year-old younger sister Claire is depressed because she has no future as there are no men to marry and no prospects of starting a new life. Julia persuades Victoria that they must find a way to make Claire dream again.
They decide to make their sister a wedding dress though she has no suitor. Though they cannot afford the money wasted on so frivolous an activity, the sisters dive headfirst into the tasks. As they work on THE WEDDING DRESS, word spreads that Claire is marrying a returning soldier. The neighbors needing escape from the dismal aftereffects of the war join the three sisters as this event provides a bit of solace.
THE WEDDING DRESS is a tremendous work of historical fiction that demonstrates the need for hope in the future even when the present is so dark that there looks like there is no tomorrow. The story line is cleverly written so that the audience feels the deepest emotions of the sisters struggling with their lot and the symbolism represented by the dress. The use of “ghost riders” though exciting and a metaphorical representation of the loss still seems an unnecessary diversion from the prime theme. Virginia Ellis provides a strong tale that is mindful of Viktor Frankel's classic Man's Search for Meaning as the community desperately needed something to live for.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner