the magic room

Book Review: The Magic Room, by Jeffrey Zaslow

January 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm , by

As much as it pains me to admit this, I have become addicted to reality TV—especially wedding shows. And I mean all of ‘em: Say Yes to the Dress, Girl Meets Gown, My Fair Wedding, Bridezillas … the list goes on. They’re always all about the bride (duh), and, of course, the dress. Who will design it? How much will she spend? Will she bond with her mom over a box of tissues like she’s always dreamed?

It’s all so dramatic and that drama, sadly, often overshadows what weddings are really about (or supposed to be)—love. Oh, did all of those reality-show tricks make you forget? Jeffrey Zaslow, author of the bestselling The Girls From Ames, hasn’t forgotten. His new book, The Magic Room (Gotham), tells brides’ tales from the gown-hunting trenches, but from a genuine, warm-hearted angle that underscores the process as a special milestone for mothers and daughters.

The Magic Room chronicles the stories that happen inside Becker’s Bridal, a mom-and-pop boutique in small-town Fowler, Michigan. It’s no Kleinfeld, but its legacy as a bridal destination is just as impressive: Founded in 1934, it’s been owned and operated by nearly four generations of the Becker family.

The Beckers have seen their share of brides and moms visit the store’s “magic room” (the mirrored alcove in which you’ll know if you’ve found the one—the one dress, that is), and Zaslow shares six brides’ unique life stories, including the meet-cutes with their fiancés and why they’re shopping at Becker’s, a store that’s become more than just a place you go to pick out a white dress. It’s where you go—with your mom by your side—to decide what you’ll wear on the day that your life changes forever.

One of my favorite brides was the spunky 40-year-old Meredith, who brings her mother and sister-in-law to Becker’s to her help choose her gown. Though 40 isn’t old, per se, it’s certainly older as brides go, and both Meredith and her mother were beginning to think she was never going to find someone to share her life with (she had even sworn off dating!). But one evening at a Polish social hall, Meredith met Ron, a 42-year-old “friend of a friend of a friend.” Now, she’s in the market for a wedding dress. Which one will it be? You may be surprised.

If you’re looking for a slice of truly homespun Americana that’ll make you say “awwwww” (or, okay, even if you just need something to fill the gap between Four Weddings and Brides of Beverly Hills) you’ll devour The Magic Room. Even I, a self-confessed wedding reality show junkie, appreciated the reminder that the big day should come with more than just glitz and glamour.