Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Painted Dresses

(WaterBrook Press - July 15, 2008)


Patricia Hickman

Patricia Hickman is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, whose work has been praised by critics and readers alike.

Patricia Hickman began writing many years ago after an invitation to join a writer's critique group. It was headed up by best-selling author Dr. Gilbert Morris, a pioneer in Christian fiction who has written many best selling titles. The group eventually came to be called the "Nubbing Chits". All four members of the original "Chits" have gone on to become award-winning and best selling novelists (good fruit, Gil!).

Patty signed her first multi-book contract with Bethany House Publishers. After she wrote several novels "for the market", she assessed her writer's life and decided she would follow the leanings of her heart. She says, "It had to be God leading me into the next work which wound up being my first break-out book, Katrina's Wings. I had never read a southern mainstream novel, yet I knew that one lived in my head, begging to be brought out and developed." She wanted to create deeper stories that broke away from convention and formula. From her own journey in life, she created a world based upon her hometown in the 70's, including Earthly Vows and Whisper Town from the Millwood Hollow Series.

Patty and her husband, Randy, have planted two churches in North Carolina. Her husband pastors Family Christian Center, located in Huntersville. The Hickmans have three children, two on earth and one in heaven. Their daughter, Jessi, was involved in a fatal automobile accident in 2001. Through her writing and speaking, Patty seeks to offer help, hope and encouragement to those who walk the daily road of loss and grief.


In this story of sisterhood and unexpected paths, Gaylen Syler-Boatwright flees her unraveling marriage to take refuge in a mountain cottage owned by her deceased aunt. Burdened with looking after her adult sister, Delia, she is shocked to find a trail of family secrets hidden within her aunt’s odd collection of framed, painted dresses. With Delia, who attracts trouble as a daily occupation, Gaylen embarks on a road trip that throws the unlikely pair together on a journey to painful understanding and delightful revelations.

Steeped in Hickman’s trademark humor, her spare writing voice, and the bittersweet pathos of the South, Painted Dresses powerfully captures a woman’s desperate longing to uncover a hidden, broken life and discover the liberty of living authentically, even when the things exposed are shrouded in shame.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

I am a Southern woman. I have grown up with an understanding that there are certain subjects that “people just don’t talk about.” My own mother gave me a pamphlet to read when I hit puberty, and in all of my memory not once did we ever discuss boys and dating and how to conduct oneself during any related activity. When I mean there are subjects Southerners “just don’t talk about,” I mean they don’t even whisper about them!

Patricia Hickman also understands this as she has created an entire novel of two sisters who gradually uncover their own family’s secret issues. The resulting trauma of repressed information is evident in the broken, amoral lives of the two main characters – Gaylen and Delia. These two women were raised by a mentally deranged woman (probably bi-polar) and a father who only gave God a nod during his last two days on earth. As adults, both girls – but especially Delia – were loose with men and paid a high price both emotionally and physically. As it turns out, the secrets are about as gross as you can imagine. There is some minimal healing that takes place as they confront family members about their “unspoken” past, and in the end they share as genuine a relationship as two very young, broken, unsaved women can manage.

There were moments of good prose sprinkled throughout the book. However, there were also a lot of depraved details that didn’t add anything to the story, and the language was very off-color and undesirable. The spiritual aspects were so vague you’d have to have a vivid imagination to find them, and the entire family was so empty of God and so full of depravity that I was unable to find a single character that I enjoyed. I understand that these things exist and now that I’ve volunteered at a women’s rehab facility for over a year, I can testify that some people live a lifetime in a virtual hell here on earth. Life isn’t pretty. It can be VERY ugly. But God can and does redeem lives, and I prefer stories with some glimmer of hope. This story depressed me, and I can’t personally recommend it to anyone I know. Make up your own mind. Here is the purchasing information.


Janna said...

I pretty much agree with your review - I had a hard time connecting with the characters as well...

Scrambled Dregs said...

Thanks for your enthusiasm, sweetcakes. You know I thought yours was well-done, too.