The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow is a series of short stories about individual brides intertwined with the bigger story of Becker's Bridal Shop and its owner, Shelley Becker Mueller. Each of the featured brides tries on a dress in the Magic Room, an upstairs bridal gown viewing room with gentle lighting and flattering mirrors.
It sounds like a downright magical experience for a modern bride who expects the entire wedding process to be a fairy tale. This is what brides today want, so Shelley delivers.
What I found most fascinating about The Magic Room was the history of Becker's Bridal shop and the evolution of brides through the years. Certainly, the brides of the 1930s didn't need all the fuss that today's young women do. Still, it's interesting to read this piece of social history, a topic I've always been drawn to. History text books are one way to learn about an era, but if you really want to get a grasp on what the people were like, books like The Magic Room will take you there.
How did the brides of the 1950s behave? What kind of wedding dresses did they choose and why? You'll get a few answers to these questions amongst the pages of Zaslow's book.
If only Zaslow would have included more of this and less of the up close and personal stories about the featured brides. I felt a bit depressed reading these chapters that seemed to break the flow of the bigger story. They were tragedies in the midst of the fascinating success of Becker's Bridal Shop.
I can't help but think telling sob stories is a trend in our modern society as much as fairy tale weddings are.
While I root for people who've had a tough row to hoe, I always wonder where the sweet, but kind and no less deserving people are who don't have a tragic background. Or, if they do, their tragedy isn't quite tragic enough. For instance, the winner of The Today Show bridal contests is always someone with a horribly sad background story. Those fortunate enough to get Extreme Home Makeovers are the most tragic of all. Being thrifty, smart and resourceful doesn't win these days, but tragedy does.
All of this to say, I couldn't help but feel depressed for those featured brides. As someone who had a childhood tragedy, I think I can say this without bitterness. When my husband and I got married, our wedding and marriage were about us being in love and starting our lives together, not about the deaths of my father or his father and his brother. Our story probably would have made an excellent chapter in The Magic Room, but I would have never wanted it.
Sure, our past makes us who we are, but that doesn't mean we have to dwell there.
You can bet the brides of the 1930s, 40s and 50s were no less tragic than today's brides. But, they didn't dwell on that part of their lives. Being thrifty, smart and resourceful won over airing your misfortunes then.
This is why, overall, I wasn't in love with The Magic Room. I don't like to read sob stories. I don't like to watch them on TV. I know there are lots of people who do and that's why this genre does so well right now. But, me, I'll take the engaging social history and leave out the tearful tales of woe.
Check out the BlogHer Book Club page for The Magic Room for more book discussions.
I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review, but all opinions expressed are my own.