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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BlogHer Book Club: The Magic Room (Jeffrey Zaslow)

The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow

Many books feature a short title followed by a longer subtitle that gives a hint to the focus of the book. This book is about a Magic Room. It is not, however, a story about the love we wish for our daughters. I tried to come up with a better statement of focus but failed. Fitting, as I felt the book lacked focus overall. The three pieces of this book never quite come together, though each on its own holds potential.

The main focus is Becker's Bridal and the generations of family who have run the store in small-town Fowler, Michigan. Becker's Bridal is also home to the Magic Room, a special space defined by mirrors and lighting where brides-to-be bring their final selection for tears, family bonding, and eventually fittings. The book also features the stories of eight brides who make their way through the sales process at Becker's Bridal from their first visit to their fitting to their wedding day. Zaslow's final focus is on sharing a lot of research and survey information regarding the changes to marriage, societal norms, and the wedding industry over the years. He tries to intersperse these facts into the stories of the Becker family and the brides but it often feels out of place.

Overall, I thought there was a lot of potential but that the book was poorly organized and executed. I could not pinpoint a clear purpose for this book - was it to tell the story of the shop, the Becker family, the brides, or society? Establishing a clear purpose often helps non-fiction works fall into place organizationally and I feel that this book suffered for lack of that definition. Zaslow has applied a very factual presentatation style to stories that begged for more emotion. The stories of the brides were divided into three parts each and scattered throughout the book. I found myself wishing he had kept these tales whole as I frequently forgot each bride's story by the time he returned to it. The trials of a widow remarrying quickly despite friction with her kids and the triumphs of a newly-engaged woman recovering from a horrible accident would've been more compelling told as a whole. Story flow was decreased by facts and figures about everything from divorce rates to sexual promiscuity to bridal shop failures while not providing enough information to be considered a real examination of societal changes. Perhaps organizing the book into three separarate sections - Becker family/shop, Becker brides, relevant research tied back to the stories - would create a more cohesive experience for the reader.

If you're interested in reading The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow, you can purchase it from a retailer such as Amazon. Or, once I'm finished with my BlogHer Book Club duties, I am willing to forward along my copy to an interested reader. For more discussions about this book, check out the conversations at BlogHer.

This post is part of the BlogHer Book Club. I received a small payment and a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion and discussion participation.


AudreyO said...

I've never done a book review but my daughter has. It's tough when you don't care for the book :( It's amazing how some authors make it all come together and you can't put the book down and other authors it's a struggle to get through each page.

Toriz said...

I'll give it a miss, I think.

TMC said...

I'll pass, thanks.

That corgi :) said...

It does sound like it has potential, Cate. Its a shame it couldn't be pulled together for a dynamic type of book that you regret finishing because you want the story to continue! I think you did a good review of it regardless. If no one else takes up your offer, I'd be interested in reading it just to see what my perspective of it might be.

I wish you and Joe a very happy new year, Cate. I do hope it is the year where it all comes together!


C. Beth said...

"I felt the book lacked focus overall."


You actually did a good job "organizing" the book's content in your post! I wish the book itself had featured more of that type of organization.