I Wish I Had a Red Dress
By Pearl Cleage
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780380977338, 336pp.)
Publication Date: July 2001
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Joyce Mitchell was widowed far too young when her beloved husband, Mitch, died in a tragic accident five years ago. Since then she's kept her hands full and her mind and heart occupied by running The Sewing Circus, an all-girl group she founded to provide badly needed services like day care and job counseling to young women, many of whom are single mothers. More important, The Circus is a place for lively, wide-ranging, heart-to-heart discussions that will help members grow into what Joyce likes to call "twenty-first-century free women."
All in all, Joyce has a full and rich life. She has her work, her family, her friends, and her town. But there are some nights when she crawls into bed alone and has to admit that something is missing. What she doesn't have is that red dress she keeps dreaming about or a social life that would accommodate it even if she braved the mail and bought one. To further complicate matters, she may not have The Sewing Circus much longer, as the state legislature has decided not to fund the group's vital but hard-todefine work with young women who are too often regarded as problems rather than possibilities.
Feeling defeated and pessimistic, Joyce reluctantly agrees to keep a date for dinner at the home of her best friend, Sister -- a reverend like no other-and finds not only a perfect meal but a tall, dark stranger named Nate Anderson. Nate has just joined the administration at the high school and his unexpected presence in Idlewild touches a chord in Joyce that she thought her heart had forgotten how to play. Nate feels the same immediate connection, but both have enough experience with broken hearts to take it real slow. Besides, they've got too much work to do to concentrate on falling in love....But life moves at its own pace, and as Sister says, "if you want to make God laugh, make plans." Particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. Joyce decides the trick is to stay focused and to remember that nothing is as sexy as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, especially if you tell it while you're wearing a perfect red dress....