The death of Gaylen Syler-Boatwright’s father sees her return home to Boiling Waters, North Carolina for his funeral. The Syler’s are a dysfunctional family set on petty arguments and spreading stories and rumours about one another. Gaylen’s sister, Delia, is chaos going somewhere to happen. The two sisters find themselves on the run from Delia’s mistakes and discover a series of painted dresses, framed and hung in a late Aunt’s cabin. Upon closer inspection, Gaylen discovers that each dress has a story of its own, and it is these stories that send she and Delia on a journey of discovery.
What I thought:
Patricia Hickman plumbs the depths of family secrets and dysfunction in ‘’. This novel, ‘Painted Dresses’ based on her own experience, exposes the shadows that families hide and the lies they use to protect their pride and later generations from a darkness that would threaten to swallow them whole. It is a heartbreaking tale of discovery and facing the family demons. Yet beyond the heartbreak there is healing and hope for a positive future.
Gaylen and Delia are a study in opposites. Where Gaylen is careful, mature and responsible Delia is haphazard, childish and rebellious. Gaylen feels that her life is falling apart around her ears, whereas Delia has an unrealistic impression that Gaylen’s life is perfect and that Gaylen herself has it all together. Patricia portrays their relationship so realistically that I found it easy to relate the story to my own sibling relationships, because every family has its ‘moments’!
I loved the way Patricia uses Aunt Amity’s painted dresses to propel Gaylen and Delia on their journey, seeking the truths about their family that have long been hidden. It seemed that those works of art gave the family members and friends involved permission to share the secrets that surrounded the dress’s inclusion in Amity’s collection, thus encouraging Gaylen in her search for the truth.
Guest reviewer:~ my dear friend Tracy from Beyond My Picket Fence