What began as writing a book to personally heal from a toxic, traumatizing marriage, turned into a story that resonates with women whom I never imagined would like it much less, have it speak to them. Throughout the writing process, I have sought out a variety of sample readers to critique my book in order to learn and improve the story. Some, I felt confident, would relate to the book and especially the main character but I was pleasantly surprised to find even women whom I imagined would find the story to be upsetting, or even offensive, turned out to find commonalities between themselves and the main character. As I pondered this, I went back to my roots of teaching Pilates. Asking myself, what commonalities can I find between my different clients? The women I teach range from high school students, athletes, strippers, housewives, Playboy bunnies, freshly divorced, newly engaged, stay at home moms, career women, some fly private, some have multiple homes and some struggle to pay for lessons. What I found was this: all women, even ones with seemingly perfect bodies and lives, feel sad, insecure and ugly. The very same women a week later could feel confident, hopeful and beautiful. Women are complex but universally, they seek intimacy with other women through sharing the stories of their lives. I don’t claim to know all of their problems and secrets, but I see that most women want to be heard, to listen and to give and receive advice. This sharing is how women grow, learn and feel better about themselves and their place in society. Teaching Pilates has been a fulfilling career because I can change lives one woman at a time. As I began to receive feedback from sample readers about how they related to my book and especially, the main character, I realize that I can have a greater impact on women through my writing than I could have ever imagined and this has been the most rewarding motivation to get my book published.
Another important subject covered in my book is that of addiction. Addiction is something that most people have encountered through a variety of ways whether it be a family member, friend or themselves. Recently, an addiction specialist who read my book told me that he felt it would diminish people’s fear of rehab. My book could “help people overcome the fear of seeking help by providing insight into the experience from a very raw and honest perspective.” As the child of an alcoholic, drug addict, I spent a lot of time covering up the pain and overcompensating for the fact that I felt fatherless, but I had to choose not to have it ruin my life. I wanted to convey this message in my book through the main character so that other people can see that it is possible to rise up from bad things and lead a fulfilling, healthy life. I did a lot of research to write this book, attended AA, SAA and NAA meetings and interviewed many people. My hope is that this book can help people see that rehab isn’t a scary, degrading place but rather a place to grow, change and dig into self-discovery.
Jen has let me read and comment on several iterations of her book, which is impressive on many levels. It is a coming-of-age story set in the recent past that shows how our world’s patriarchal and hierarchal values give men a sense of entitlement that colors every interaction between the sexes. What is a woman to do? The protagonist Prudence’s journey, literally from womb to self-actualization ~ she becomes a “butterfly” in rehabilitation ~ is one someone of either sex can relate to. I found myself alternately rooting for Prudence, and despairing for the choices foisted on her. Jen evokes several locations, including Long Island, the Caribbean, and the Southwest, with lean prose that creates a setting without being a distraction. Like all good novels, “A Dress the Color of the Sky” grapples with what it means to be human, and to triumph over the odds. Prudence learns to deal with conflict decisively. The heroine’s donkey skin, both literally and figuratively, is exchanged for a dress the color of the sky. “Dress” is peopled with memorable characters, good, bad, and in-between. Prudence herself is a spectrum of an action and reaction to the curveballs that life throws at her. Prue’s dysfunctional family is well-sketched, but her best childhood friend, Lily, and her grandmother stood out the most for me as beacons of humanity. While at times a harrowing read filled with plot twists and danger, ultimately this novel’s message of redemption leaves the reader feeling better about the world and life in general. Looking forward to more from Ms. Irwin.
This book is a great read. I had the good fortune to be a test reader and could not put it down. Jen’s unique voice and writing style are truly captivating.
As a busy mom of four, I find myself taking any opportunity I have to read this captivating and inspiring story about a woman’s survival, evolution, and a road to self-discovery.
As a retired RN, therapist, I found Jennifer’s book to be an authentic, interesting depiction of the experience of a therapeutic milieu. The character, Prudence, starts out somewhat reticent to face the challenges offered in short term therapy. Her gradual healing from the traumas of her past comes slowly in response to the therapeutic community atmosphere encountered. The story is at times raw, producing an emotional reaction from the reader. The book leaves the reader wishing for another chapter or the next book.
This book brings to light important topics that are sometimes more easily ignored. I’m looking forward to reading it in it’s entirety!
Having read several revisions of The Dress the Color of the Sky as Jennifer has developed the story and characters, I can say it has truly evolved as book that can speak to such a wide audience on childhood pain and hardship, self-esteem, unhealthy relationships, addiction and struggling to learn from life’s pain and mistakes to grow as a human being.
Jen’s style is honest and clear. She doesn’t flinch when she puts Prudence in extremely shocking situations, while deftly keeping the audience on her side. This book was a page-turner for me. When it’s published, I’m sure it will help others heal from their own traumas.
Loved this book. Couldn’t put it down until it was finished.. And then I wanted more! Jen reaches down to depths unknown to most of us and brings to light issues many of us would rather sweep away. It’s raw and funny and sad and uplifting. This book will hit nerves. But it’s cathartic at the same time. Prudence prevails. She’s a fighter and-and winner in life. This is by far the best book I’ve read in years!
So proud of you and all of the work you have put into this!
Jennifer’s novel is the compelling narrative about a woman who decides to pursue healing from the wounds of her childhood and a bad marriage. It is an eye-opening look at how one can survive and thrive through investing in one’s self!
Jennifer Irwin’s unique style of storytelling had me riveted from start to finish. Ironically, Prudence’s provocative journey of self-discovery is both disturbing and enlightening. After struggling with her internal and external demons, she seeks treatment that enables her to understand, absolve and liberate herself. Jennifer’s honest characterization of Prudence makes her real and relatable to readers of all ages.
Hi, Jennifer, Love how you say addiction is about confronting fear – and not confronting this fear means you go on and on in a less than ideal state until you do something. Thanks, bren
Jen’s writing style is unique, raw, unabashedly honest & completely captivating. As a mother of two young kids and as someone that works in the mental health field I feel this book is needed for everyone & anybody that has questions about addiction & rehab. Thank you, Jen, for writing this book!
There are only two books I have ever read two consecutive times in a row: the first was Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five,” and the second was “A Dress the Color of the Sky.” Jennifer’s novel is powerful, hilarious, haunting, and above all, brilliant. Her writing style is biting and colloquial, harsh but somehow simultaneously elegant in its detail. Very rarely can a writer pull off something so gutsy and raw without alienating the audience, but Jennifer somehow manages to take you in and make you feel as though you are her confidant within the story. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who is a fan of anything. Be warned, “A Dress the Color of the Sky” will stay with you long after you put it down.
You had a very laudable reason to set into writing your book, but your motivation soared to new heights with your painstaking research to keep things deadly accurate and informative. I respect that a lot.