A Dress the Color of the Sky is a stunning debut!
Jennifer Irwin’s stunning debut novel, A Dress the Color of the Sky, poignantly portrays Prudence Aldrich (Prue) in her travails and triumphs throughout the odyssey of her volatile life.
In Prue’s case, much of the conflict thrust upon her is through no fault of her own, like the princess in the Donkeyskin fairy tale from which the book title is drawn. Her sheer physical appeal to men puts her in situations from adolescence forward in which she is too often victimized, but she also contributes to her emotional deterioration in many episodes of her life through her own devices.
Prue’s story is framed between her past and her present. It starts with an unsettling session with her shrink then launches into a ‘mile-high’ introduction of her en route to rehab for sexual addiction at Serenity Hills. The first-person account then toggles between her present rehab and her past upheaval that began with an unsettled childhood exacerbated by her wayward, divorced parents.
Only when Prue’s past and present converge with the completion of her rehab does the future unfold its promise for her renewed self. She reenters the world at-large with enhanced self-awareness and hope for truer love and happiness in the stripped-bare identity of her new ‘donkeyskin’.
Prue’s character is lovingly developed throughout the novel. She is endearing, intelligent, and sometimes hilarious, but she also at times seems vulnerable to a fault and afflicted to a disturbing degree. Despite her shortcomings and indiscretions, Prue always emerges personable, embraceable, and resolute so that her inner beauty radiates above all else, especially with regard to the son she adores and her eternal optimism.
The novel is remarkably crafted in understated depth and synergy of past, present, and future. The seamless transitions from past to present throughout the book never veer too far from the future toward which Prue unnervingly careens. This treatment of time in addition to the effortlessly intimate candor conveying Prue’s psyche makes A Dress the Color of the Sky reminiscent of Frank Conroy’s classic Stop-Time.
The new beginning of the novel’s ending beckons a sequel to A Dress the Color of the Sky, whether as part of a series or stand-alone. The timeliness and poignancy of the book clamor for its adaptation to film. Until then, savor this novel on its own. It’s perfect for book clubs and includes a reading group study guide at the end. It’s also the most brilliantly moving novel I’ve read in a long time.
Order it here.