"ONE DRESS: FIVE BRIDES, FIVE STARS"
Reviewed by Patricia (Pat) Pascale
Posted May 30, 2015
Inspirational Historical | Christian | Women's Fiction
FIVE BRIDES is a delicious, delightful read that I adored.
What five remarkable women, different and yet alike.
their journey to find love with them. It is sometimes
painful, but always bittersweet. Joan, Everlyn, Betty.
Magda and Inga each tell a story and share their dreams,
the pages fly and you can't put this book down.
Joan Hunt sailed aboard the Mauretania II from England to
New York. She boarded a train for twenty four hours and
arrived in the city of her birth, Chicago. Uprooted at
nine and brought to Great Britain, Joan's first goal: Find
job and send money to family back home.
At sixteen years old, Joan entered an essay in a contest
"The Man of My Dreams. She wrote, "The man of my dreams
will be able to do things and be creative. It would be
if he was 6 ft. two, had blue eyes and lots of dark hair."
A prevew of coming attractions?
Evelyn Alexander, a pen pal of Joan Hart for many years,
boards a train from Portal, Georgia to Chicago. She tells
her daddy, "I want to get a job in one of those tall
buildings in the Loop. I want to live in an apartment."
What she did not tell her daddy? She wanted to get
away from Hank Shute, a young man who has been her
since high school and plans to be a farmer just like his
daddy. He does not "turn her skin to gooseflesh", which
how her daddy described his feelings when he fell in love
with her mother.
Betty Estes at 26 has a job as a secretary, a generous
allowance from her father, an apartment needing additional
roommates, and the affection of George Volbrecht, the one
chosen to be Betty's husband by both his family's and hers
too. However, Betty does not love him and has no plans to
Magda and Inga Christenson, sisters from Minnesota have
jobs and are Betty's roommates. Magda works for a
Publishing Company, Inga is an air line stewardess looking
for Mr. Right. Magda wants to become a writer and become
One Saturday in the window of Carson, Pirie and Scott, the
girls see the most beautiful wedding dress and on a lark
they all try it on. It is $300 and they buy it together.
They make a pact. Each may use it on her wedding day.
last one married gets to keep it. FIVE BRIDES is a truly
of the dress and the weddings. I loved it utterly and
completely and you will too. Thank you, Ms. Everson for
sweetest read in ages.
One dress, five women, a lifetime of memories.
Five single, fiercely independent women live together in
Chicago apartment in the early 1950s but rarely see one
another. One Saturday afternoon, as they are
together downtown, they spy a wedding dress in a
window at the famous Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co.
After trying it on—much to the dismay of the salesclerk
without a single boyfriend or date between the five of
them—they decide to pool their money to purchase it. Can
dress forever connect five women who live together only a
short time before taking their own journeys to love and
whatever comes happily ever after?
An early morning wind whipped around the right-front
corner of the medieval and French Renaissance building on
Chicago’s south side. Once the splendid home of one of
the city’s most respected doctors, it now served as a
temporary home for young women in transit. Women like
nineteen-year-old Joan Hunt.
She stretched under the weight of a starched sheet and a
thick blanket that smelled of mothballs and time, then
pulled her left arm out from under the light weight. The
chill in the air drove gooseflesh up and down its length.
With the fingertips of her right hand, which only peeked
out of the covers, she turned the Timex dou-ble-mesh
banded watch to view the face, then blinked. She’d slept
over ten hours.
“Well, no wonder,” she mumbled, returning the covers to
her chin. Squeezing her eyes shut, she whispered, “Good
morning, Lord. We’ve a lot to do today, now, don’t we?”
Then, as though her life depended on it, in one movement
she threw the covers to her feet and sat up-right.
Up and out of bed, Joan opened the battered trunk at the
end of the twin cot in the narrow room she’d been
assigned the evening before. Her clothes—neatly folded in
short stacks, skirts on one side, blouses on the other,
lingerie in a satin case beneath them all—smelled of
home, of lavender and England, and a long but exciting
week on the Mauretania II.
She removed the cedar cubby shelf filled with a col-
lection of framed photos, two of her favorite Agatha
Christie novels, a small leather address book, and the
paper she’d written for a contest in which the young la-
dies of Leigh, Lancashire, England, were to write an es-
say titled, “The Man of Your Dreams.” It had been simple
enough for her to pen. Even at sixteen.
“The man of my dreams will be able to do things,” she’d
written. “Lots of things. And be creative. And,” she’d
added, “it would be nice if he were six foot two, had
blue eyes, and lots of dark hair.”
Joan smiled now at the reaction her mother had given her.
“I’m so sure, Joan. God is going to create some man out
of clay just for you.”
Joan now lowered the shelf to the industrial-white tile
floor, then slipped her hand behind the skirts and with-
drew a stack of correspondence bound by a wide pink
ribbon. The swirl of her name in Evelyn Alexander’s
penmanship brought comfort, welcoming her to Chicago and
her temporary home. It also helped her to know she’d done
the right thing in journeying here.
“Just come,” Evelyn had written from her home, which Joan
had always pictured as having a wide wrap-around porch
dotted with wicker furniture and surround-ed by lush
Come to Chicago. If your father says this is the best
place to find a job here in the States, then it must be
true. If you dare to board a ship and cross the Atlantic,
I’ll dare to take the train up the Eastern Seaboard.
Joan had dared, all right, the scariest part of her jour-
ney having been the announcement to her mother—the truest
of all Brits—that she wanted to return to America, the
land of her birth. She had endured Mum’s shock and calmly
said, “I know, Mum,” after she’d reminded her that “dual
citizenship is not possible, you know. You cannot belong
to both the king and the president.”
And Joan endured it again when her mum stoically cried,
“I don’t know if I can bear this.”
Difficult as it was to hear Mum cry, the idea of re-
maining in war-ravaged England—of merely enduring her
days until some poor bloke asked her to marry him—was
more than she could bear. While she wanted her future
groom to be able to do things, first she wanted to
experience life. Then, she wanted bride and groom to do
so many wonderful things together.
Joan pulled the top letter from the stack, returned the
rest, and placed the shelf over her clothes. Her fin-
gertips brushed across a photo of her family, all eleven,
clustered together in their Sunday best, wide-eyed and
smiling. Her index finger rested over the place where her
mother’s heart beat, and she closed her eyes and breathed
in deeply, remembering the cries that pierced the halls
of the American offices in Manchester when she boldly
repeated, “I denounce the king and all his rights, and
swear my allegiance to the United States of America.”
She exhaled as she stood, shaking away the memory as she
laid the last letter from Evelyn at the foot of the bed.
She grabbed her robe from the lone black spin-dle-back
Windsor chair and shoved her arms into the sleeves, tied
the belt around her too-thin waist, stepped into
slippers, and darted out the door toward the bath and
showers down the hall.
Minutes later, with her teeth brushed and hair combed,
she returned to her assigned room, closed the door behind
her, and walked to the window.
The previous night, after a week on the ship and an-other
twenty-four hours on a train, she’d been too tired to
eat. But now, as she pulled the muslin curtains away from
the room’s single window, her stomach rumbled.
“There’s a restaurant just down the block,” the man
behind the desk had said when she arrived, and she
wondered how he’d known she stood there praying she
wouldn’t collapse in the lobby. “They’re open until
“I’m afraid I’m just too worn out to walk there and
back.” She chuckled with all the energy of a turtle at
the end of his race. “Pathetic, isn’t it?”
The young man—tall and lanky with a full head of dark
curls—scratched along his temple before holding up a
finger and saying, “Tell you what.” He ambled over to the
desk behind him, piled high with papers and files of all
sorts. He pulled out a drawer and dipped his hand in,
retrieving a candy bar. “Do you like Baby Ruths?”
She honestly didn’t know, but nodded anyway. “Thank you,”
she’d said as he handed her what would be dinner.
“Be back down before eight in the morning and get
yourself some coffee and a nice hot breakfast. We start
serving at six.”
Now, with her nose pressed to the cool glass and peering
at the street below where cars already rolled past, her
stomach declared that the meal of peanuts, caramel, and
chocolate had officially worn off.
Joan dined alone in the expansive cafeteria of the YMCA.
Fine by her; she wanted to read Evelyn’s last letter
again before the first order of business—embarking on her
If you arrive on the 16th of October, you’ll have to go
it alone for a few days. I cannot possibly be there until
the 20th. Perhaps not until a couple of weeks after that.
I’d hoped to meet you in New York and we could take the
train together, but I have had to handle Mama with kid
Joan understood. All too well. Though their situations
were similar, they were also vastly different. Joan had
to denounce the king and travel to a country she hadn’t
seen for years, not since the Great Depression. Her fa-
ther, a fun-loving Irishman, and her mother, a gentle
Englishwoman, had packed up all their belongings and
their brood of children and returned to the United King-
dom from their Chicago home. Evelyn, on the other hand,
had never been to the “Windy City.” She’d been to Atlanta
once, she’d said, but that was as far “north” as she’d
Still, if I don’t do this very brave thing . . . if I
don’t square my shoulders and tell Daddy how desperately
I want to leave on this great adventure . . . I just
know, Joanie, that I’ll regret it for the rest of my
life. I can feel it in the marrow of my bones. Every
morning I wake with one thought: You must do this,
Evelyn. This is your one opportunity.
Indeed, Joan thought, swallowing the last of her tea and
toast. Mine as well. Being the middle child of nine,
she’d felt she had to come to America. Create her own
adventure. Write her own story. Or simply burst from the
need. For something . . . something more than England
Something. Although she couldn’t say quite what. And if
she didn’t find it here, she reasoned she would have to
return across the Atlantic to seek it elsewhere.
Joan stood resolutely and brushed a few crumbs from her
skirt. The time had come for her to find a job. And find
it quickly. Today. She had only thirty-seven dollars to
her name, and, as comfortable as her room at the Y seemed
to be, it was only a room.
It wasn’t home.
For her first day in Chicago, she chose a simple blue
over-the-knee pencil skirt and a white shirtwaist. Her
on-ly accessories were a strand of pearls, a small hat
with a net that she pulled back, and a pair of gloves the
color of midnight. She’d taken stock of herself as best
she could in the small mirror in her room, but now, in
front of one of the wide front windows of a four-story
office building, she had a better view. And, if she said
so herself, she made a rather smashing reflection.
Joan adjusted the clutch she carried under her arm. It
held Evelyn’s letter with suggestions for employment, and
her cash for safekeeping. The building she stood in front
of appeared squatty in comparison to those around it. But
the brass address plate indicated it contained a number
of businesses within, including Hertz, which she had
heard of. Seemed a good place to start.
And if you land a job, Joanie, promise me you’ll save a
spot for me.
No “if” about it. She would land a job.
Joan entered the lobby off of South Wabash, which was
austere by every definition of the word. Only a few
ordinary chairs flanked the perimeter between office
doors. A receptionist’s desk sat smack in the center.
“Hallo,” she said to the young blonde on the other side
The woman looked up from her work with wide blue eyes
made bluer by the dark liner that curled from the ends of
the lids. “May I help you?”
Yes, she absolutely could. Joan straightened her
shoulders and smiled. “I’m here for a job.”
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