When I was little, my grandmother and I would spend afternoons at vintage and antique shops. We'd walk along creaking wood floors, browsing through aisles and forgetting about time. She would reach for pieces that sparked a memory, explaining the history of each item to me. Smoothing our hands over fabrics, my grandmother would share stories about the dresses she wore. Together, we'd toss guesses out about the women who once owned the treasures we were unearthing.
There was a history to everything we saw. Later, when I was able to buy my own clothes, it was vintage shops I was drawn to. I found my choices there, among the mohair sweaters and the pencil skirts of the '60s, that fit who I was more than any of the current trends.
It's no small surprise why I fell head over heels with the debut novel, Vintage, by Madison, Wisconsin based author, Susan Gloss. Hourglass Vintage, the setting for this novel, is a vintage shop owned by the main character, Violet Turner. It's the kind of boutique where I imagine my grandmother and I would have spent our afternoons. As if by magic, Susan Gloss has taken the exact sentiment from my heart, and wrapped a story around the characters and artifacts in Violet Turner's shop.
Each chapter is introduced with a description of a consignment item that's been brought into Violet's store:
Wedding gown, 1952, good condition,
Ivory, tea length, scooped neck, cap sleeves. Silk taffeta.
Source: acquired from couple's daughter
I loved this unique start and found myself looking forward to each chapter to see what piece would be featured next, and why. Life histories are woven in along with the items that are brought into Violet's shop -- a reader can't help but be captivated. I went without sleep to finish Vintage, sinking into bed at night, eager to open my book and enter the world of Hourglass Vintage again.
We meet young April Morgan, who purchases a 1950's vintage wedding gown from Violet, only to come back to the store, needing to return it. Then there is Amithi, who, one at a time, surrenders her beautiful Indian saris to Violet's curated care. Violet, April, and Amithi forge a strong friendship, an unlikely one, that spans the experiences of a lifetime. They hold each other up through the unanticipated twists of each of their lives, and they grow to love, depend, and count on one another. The friendship that these three women form is a surprising one, one they never went looking for and now see they can't do without. So very much like spending an afternoon at an antique store with my grandmother and spotting that one special item, the one that would bring a tale to my grandmother's lips and that we would have to bring home. Susan Gloss' book is made all the more charming when you discover that she herself is proprietor of a vintage shop on Etsy.
Vintage is a novel of pure pleasure, with flesh and blood characters that let you inhabit their lives for the 308 pages that they are ours. Susan Gloss has created a world in Vintage where it was easy for me to imagine myself a part of, and made me so sad to leave. I didn't want Violet's, April's, or Amithi's stories to end. I didn't want the vintage pieces from Hourglass Vintage's collection to no longer be listed. I didn't want this book to end -- something that makes this debut novel a winner.
I'm fortunate enough to offer a copy of Susan Gloss' debut novel, Vintage, to a lucky reader. Please leave a comment, and I'll let the author know of the winner!
Susan Gloss is the author of the novel Vintage, coming in March 2014 from William Morrow/HarperCollins. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in English and Spanish, and the University of Wisconsin Law School. She lives on Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, with her optimistic husband, young son, and neurotic hound dog. When she's not writing fiction or toddler wrangling, Susan can be found working as an attorney, heading an online vintage shop at Cleverly Curated, or seeking inspiration for her blog, GlossingOverIt. She also blogs every Wednesday at The Debutante Ball for debut authors.
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