First Lines: "Millicent Middleton. That's the name Mama told her to give if anyone asked. Half of it was honest, at least."
Summary: Harper is attending Savannah College of Art and Design with dreams of one day owning a dress shop. For as long as she can remember she has loved to sew. When she was little she would make clothes for her dolls. As she got older, she began repairing vintage clothing and designing her own dresses. Soon she will graduate, but first she has to qualify for the Senior Show. Harper spent many late nights getting the embroidery just right on her dress. She is confident it deserves a spot at the Senior Show.
Millie loves to wander down King Street in Charleston, stopping to gaze into the windows of the dress shop. The year is 1946. It is difficult for the casual observer to identify her race. She can often pass as a white woman. Her mother is not so fortunate and cautions Millie to be careful. She realizes she could never actually go inside the dress shop, but dreams of what it would be like. Millie has become fascinated with dresses and the stories of the women who wore them. Someday, she hopes to own a dress shop of her own.
Harper and Millie's lives intersect in unexpected ways. They find that the path to a dream is not always straight. Sometimes there are roadblocks and difficulties that make the realization of a dream seem impossible. Can they work together to make their dreams a reality?
My thoughts: The Dress Shop on King Street is a dual timeline novel where the timelines intersect. The 1946 timeline is really giving the background of Millie's life, however I found this to be the timeline I enjoyed the most. I found both storylines to be compelling and I couldn't wait to find out how the stories intersected. I will admit I did find the way they were connected to be a bit unlikely. Not enough to take away my enjoyment of the book though.
Millie is brave, tenacious and someone I would like to get to know better. She has been through much difficulty in her life. Fear has been the impetus for many of the decisions she has had to make. However, along the way she has found love, hope and kindness. As she dreams of one day owning a dress shop, she realizes that people are more important than her dreams. As I put myself in her shoes, I could see that her decisions were difficult.
I learned quite a bit about the south in 1946 and beyond. I learned about attitudes and ideas. Things were changing, but slowly. I also learned that there were places and people who didn't hold the biases that others around them did. These people offered solace amidst strife. I have never been to Charleston, but I feel like I have a picture of it in my mind now. With it's cobblestone streets, old buildings and pots of geraniums on every corner.
I liked Harper as well. She is young and sure of herself until she meets a roadblock. As she tries to figure out what the roadblock means and what direction she should go, she spends time visiting those who are important to her. She listens to their advice and learns something along the way. She loves to sew and design dresses and is drawn to vintage clothing.
Some of the themes in the book are history and the importance of it, race relations, family, dreams, secrets and finding purpose.
This was a great story that kept me rapidly turning the pages. If you enjoy historical fiction, are interested in learning more about race relations in the 1940's or are just looking for a really good story, give this book a try.