The Dress Shop of Dreams is about Cora, the scientist who doesn't open her heart, Walt, the guy who's always loved her with the radio-perfect voice, Etta, Cora's grandmother, Milly, the woman who listens to Walt's voice on the radio and fell in love and Dylan, Walt's boss. Those are a lot of people, and they all have their separate stories. Oh wait, there's also Henry, the policeman.
One problem I have is that all the separate stories never feel like they're tied together. If it weren't for the fact that Cora and Etty are related by blood, and that Henry has been in love with Cora (although he promptly got in a relationship with Milly at the start of the book), there are no links. Cora suddenly embarks on a quest to find out what really happened to her parents at the mysterious fire (that was an unexpected turn), and Henry just gives up after one attempt at the start of the book. Meanwhile, Etta just interferes and then has her own thing going on.
I suppose I could see connections and all that if I cared for the characters. But I always felt this gulf, as though they were distant figures across a huge, fast-flowing river, and I only see what's going on. It may be the present tense narrative, which works wonderfully in many novels (like the book I reviewed yesterday, Broken Monsters), but not this. I just kept feeling like the author was telling, not showing the whole way, and it made me feel detached (also, I checked my notes and there were a few sudden jumps from the head of one character to another, which was a bit dizzying).
For me, this book just lacked the magic spark. Plenty of others love it, so if you're curious, it's worth borrowing the book or reading a sample to see whether you like it. It just didn't quite make the cut for me.
Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.