Nine Women, One Dress, by Jane L. Rosen

9women1dressTitle: Nine Women, One Dress

Author: Rosen, Jane L. (Author’s Website)

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit

Bibliographic: Doubleday, 272 pages, Hardcover List Price $24.95, Audiobook List Price $24.50, Audiobook CD List Price $35.00, ISBNs 9780385541404
9781410492975, 9780385541435

Publication Date: July 12, 2016

Rating: ★★★★☆/♥♥♥♡♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Heartwarming, engaging

Why I picked it up: I needed to read some chick lit for my readers’ advisory class, and I had heard that books with dresses on the cover were a good place to start.

S.I.A.S.: A series of women in New York City have their lives changed by one particular dress.

Summary: This book tells the story of one little black dress, dubbed “the it dress of the season!,” and how it impacts the lives of nine different women:

  • Natalie Canaras: A Bloomingdale’s employee who wears the dress on a date with movie star Jeremy Madison, designed to show the world he’s not gay. She thinks she’s just a beard until Jeremy (who is not gay) starts falling for her.
  • Felicia: For seventeen years, Felicia has been in love with her boss. Ever since his wife died, she’s been watching him date a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. She is surprised when he sends her the dress and asks her to dinner on her birthday, but accepts — and never suspects that she only received the invitation through a mix-up at Bloomingdale’s.
  • Andie Rand: A private detective who specializes in philandering husbands. She’s digging for information about John Westmont when she “accidentally” meets him in the dress section at Bloomingdales and strikes up a friendship. She’s having trouble finding evidence that he’s been unfaithful, and worries that she might be the source of that evidence if things keep going the way they’re going.
  • Sally Ann Fennely: A runway model from Alabama who, on her first shoot, wore the dress. An image of her is the reason the dress is so popular, and it’s shaping her experiences as a new New Yorker.
  • Sophie Stiner: Graduated from Brown University but can’t seem to catch a break. She uses instagram to make her life seem absolutely fabulous, and uses Bloomingdale’s merchandise (including the dress) as her own personal prop department.
  • Jordana Winston: An actress trying to make the transition from Hollywood to Broadway, with limited success.
  • Medina Karim: A Muslim woman from France who, unlike her sister Shireen, has no interest in fashion — until a suitcase mix-up following a vacation to New York puts the dress into their lives.
  • Ruthie: A long-time Bloomingdale’s salesgirl who steers the dress on its course through most of the other women’s lives.
  • Samantha Schwartz: Receives the dress as a gift from who boyfriend (who is a mortuary assistant) and goes to the emergency room when it makes her break out into an itchy rash. Her doctor is the dress designer’s grandson.

Evaluation:  I really didn’t think I was going to like this book, but I was quite pleasantly surprised. The plot is disjointed in a way that works really well, and at the end of every chapter I found myself disappointed, because I wanted more of the story I’d been hearing and didn’t want to switch gears! Altogether, I think the way the chapters are organized was a very effective way to keep the reader’s interest, as I continually didn’t want to put it down.

There were some stories that were more interesting than others — I didn’t much care for the Karim sisters, since they appeared so briefly and failed to interact with any of the other characters. I also wasn’t crazy about Sally Ann, although that may not have been Rosen’s fault; my best friend from high school is a professional model/actor in New York, and Sally Ann’s story is utterly unbelievable based on the people I know and their stories. The most interesting plot line, in my opinion, is Natalie and Jeremy’s romance, which was adorable. I was surprised by how much I liked Samantha Schwartz — I was a little uneasy about the idea of a doctor asking his patient on a date, but the story worked out so that it was all right.

The only story that felt out of place was Ruthie’s chapter about the woman to buy the dress and then get swallowed by a sinkhole. It was just too much of a deus ex machina.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book, and have already recommended it to several of my friends. The audiobook narration is fantastic, with a different narrator voicing each character. I think this audiobook would be a great suggestion for families or groups of friends on roadtrips, and the book itself would be good for anyone who enjoys chick flicks. It is the perfect example of what people seem to have in mind when they talk about “beach reading,” so I might recommend it to vacationers, as well.

Significance: This is Jane Rosen’s debut novel.

Readalikes: Little Black Dress, by Susan McBride. The Love Book, by Nina Solomon. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the role Bloomingdale’s plays in the novel. Where do you go to get your fancy outfits? Why do these characters choose Bloomingdale’s?
  2. Most of the characters in Nine Women, One Dress find love in an unconventional place. Which was your favorite couple? Your least favorite?
  3. New York City is almost another character in this novel. How would the story have been different if it were set somewhere else?
  4. This book tells the story of several tenuous connections. Did any of them feel unbelievable to you? Which ones, and why?
  5. How do the lives of the characters intersect with each other? Which character did you identify with the most? The least?

Lists and Awards:  LibraryReads Favorites (2016). Loan Stars Favourites (2016).

Professional Reviews:  Publishers Weekly. Kirkus. USA Today. New York Daily  News. Town and Country.

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