Sometimes we read fiction not to better understand our own lives but to get a glimpse into a life beyond our own. For voyeuristic readers—especially those curious about the lives of young women in Chicago or New York—Girls in White Dresses, Jennifer Close’s debut novel, will be a welcome addition to the bookshelf.
Born and raised in Chicago and a longtime resident of New York City, Close deftly pulls back the curtain on a series of dingy apartments in bustling metropolises. Inside are groups of 20-somethings who graduated from college and are now trying to figure out what’s next. Marriage and/or a meaningful career may be on the horizon (or not). Regardless of what’s to come, this is a group that is more than ready for something to happen. Their lives bump together over vacations or wedding weekends, and the occasional (unavoidable) catastrophe.
We watch these young women find their way through a series of tricky transitions. Love is not center stage here—although there are plenty of weddings and bridal showers, boyfriends and break-ups—nor is there a sustained look at any one character’s personal transformation. Rather we observe the group navigating the whole of life itself. Though readers might long to get to know some character more fully, that isn’t the point. Instead, this novel offers something perhaps finer: a portrait of a generation of women at a particular moment in time.