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Thursday, October 24, 2013

"The Funeral Dress" by Susan Gregg Gilmore~Go Out And Buy It!!


A deeply touching Southern story filled with struggle and hope.

     Emmalee Bullard and her new baby are on their own. Or so she thinks, until Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat by her side at the local shirt factory where both women worked as collar makers, insists Emmalee come and live with her.  Just as Emmalee prepares to escape her hardscrabble life in Red Chert holler, Leona dies tragically.

  Grief-stricken, Emmalee decides she’ll make Leona’s burying dress, but there are plenty of people who don't think the unmarried Emmalee should design a dress for a Christian woman - or care for a child on her own. But with every stitch, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town’s funeral director. In a moving tale exploring Southern spirit and camaraderie among working women, a young mother will compel a town to become a community.


Published by:  Crown Publishing Group
Pages:  368  with Reading Guide
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Susan Gregg Gilmore
Website:  http://susangregggilmore.com


SUSAN GREGG GILMORE is the author of the novels Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.  She has written for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor. Born in Nashville, she lives in Tennessee with her husband and three daughters.


 Oh, my, what a storyteller Susan Gregg Gilmore is.  The title of this wonderful book doesn't begin to really give insight into the richness of the tale you'll find in it.  I really couldn't stop reading it, though I found myself stopping momentarily many times, putting the book down and just recalling days in my life that fit the scenarios and places she describes.  This is a treasure of a book.

I want to say something else about the story here.  It is so full and moving as to have made me catch a tear and lump at my throat often.  This is old-fashioned "tear jerker" at its finest, but that's not all it is.  It's a relationship story too.  The women in this novel are deeply and significantly drawn so that you understand who they are and you can't help identifying with them in their struggles.  Their interrelationships are so meaningful.

One of my grandmothers was a mill worker in NC not far from the Tennessee border and the Blue Ridge Mountains where this story takes place.  She was a single mother, raising my mother alone in the 1930's to '40's.  She was such a woman as this book describes.  Dedicated to her work, strong and independent but with a tender heart inside, devoted to her friends at work, talented and helping others, and religious.  She never missed work.  Susan Gregg Gilmore has captured the heart of these women.

The story of Emmalee and her baby sits solidly amidst the rest of the story of Leona's, the older textile worker.  As it flashes back and forth it completes the circle and draws us in to the whole.  I thought the book was completely amazing and so heart-wrenching that my chest was nearly constantly tightening and my eyes welling up.  It's a good thing Crown Publishing sent me a complimentary packet of Kleenex with the book! LOL

This is a novel you can't miss reading.  It's perfect for discussion with friends and book groups.  Please do yourself a favor and don't miss this one!

5 stars               Deborah/TheBookishDame




I started this and had to set it aside for my book club read. I can't wait to pick it up again.

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