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Book Review: The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square

519tNSmiuiL._SL160_By Rosina Lippi
G.P Putnam’s Sons ©2008 | Hardback 351pgs

Two guarded souls come together in the beginning pages of The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square. When John Dodge first meets Julia Darrow, he is immediately intrigued by her choice of wardrobe. Julia, owner of Lambert Square’s upscale bedding boutique, Cocoon, requires all employees (herself included) to wear pajamas to work. Dodge soon learns that these pajama-wearing ladies are just a few of the Southern eccentrics that people the shopping area of Lambert Square, and the town of Lamb’s Corner in general.

Dodge is the newest merchant in Lambert Square, having just purchased Scriveners, a struggling shop specializing in fine writing instruments. He is a serial entrepreneur, and has never stayed in the same business, or even the same state, for more than eighteen months. In contrast, Julia has hardly left Lambert Square since she sought refuge here after her husband’s sudden death. To insulate herself from the pain, she has built a very structured life, around her business, her friends and her dogs. Well meaning friends immediately warn Dodge off Julia: “She may be a Yankee but she’s tender thing.” Despite these warnings the two quickly become involved. Julia is the one to initiate the relationship, which is oddly out of her otherwise buttoned-up character.

The novel’s tone of down home, small town warmth is evident in people’s reaction to Julia and Dodge’s romance. In the Southern tradition of neighborliness and nosiness, Lamb’s Corner is abuzz with the news. The town gossips’ tongues start wagging double-time with the arrival of a few Swedish imports. Swedish auto-maker Kallsjo has recently chosen Lamb’s Corner as the site for their first US plant. While the struggling South Carolina town could certainly use the influx of jobs, the residents are not sure what to make of the garrulous Swedes that are migrating with them.

Mayme Hurt, Julia’s friend, employee and fellow pajama girl, is especially flustered at the appearance of Kallsjo executive Nils Sigridsson. The Nordic playboy has set his ice blue sights on Mayme, and she’s unsure if he’s just looking for another fling or if his feelings run deeper. Bean, Mayme’s daughter, is nonplussed by Nils’ attention to her mother, and even risks a covert call to Sweden to do a little checking up on him. The precocious 10 year-old then confides in Dodge her suspicions about her mother’s suitor.

But, Dodge finds himself dealing with more problems than he can handle when his relationship with Julia shows signs of strain. His constant need for change is almost pathological, and makes commitment to personal relationships very difficult. While Julia is ambivalent about whether she is willing, or even able to make a permanent place for Dodge in the rigid structure of her life. A crisis ensues when surprising information is revealed about Dodge’s past, and Julia realizes the true extent of her vulnerability. She flees the confines of Lambert Square with out word to anyone, into the fearful unknown outside her comfort zone. Cocoon is not only the name of her store, but symbolic of the life she leads in Lambert Square.

In Julia’s absence, Dodge must come to terms with his feelings for her, and finally address the issues that prevented him from committing to anyone in the past. Mayme must step up and run Cocoon, while navigating the pitfalls of her relationship with Nils, without her dear friend to help gauge the terrain. Mayme and Dodge are both faced with a choice: open themselves to the possibility of real love or face a life of loneliness. When Julia finally returns, Dodge is wary about her reaction to seeing him again. Julia’s character can be contradictory; sometimes blatantly open, sometimes locked tightly in a protective shell. This is frustrating to Dodge, as well as the reader. But, the time away has given her clarity. She is finally ready to reveal the root cause of her pain, giving valuable insight to her character, and allowing her move forward with her life.

Lippi weaves threads of Southern-fried charm and humor throughout the book. The smell of frying bacon (and the feeling of arteries clogging) is almost palpable in Lambert Square. Eccentric characters with names like Big Dove and Heep pepper the landscape and offer such kindly advice “on everything from where to by underwear to how to clean the bathtub.” But aside from being a portrait of small town life, The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square is about love. It is about finding the courage to truly love someone and accepting their love in return. Julia, Dodge, Mayme and Nils must all confront their greatest fears in order to find their greatest happiness.

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  1. Rosina Lippi
    October 22nd, 2009 at 13:07 | #1

    I’d like to thank you for this very thoughtful review. It’s the best one I’ve come across, simply in terms of understanding the characters. This kind of review is far more interesting and useful than even the extremely positive ones. For what it’s worth, you see in these characters exactly what I hoped you would. Thanks again.

  2. October 22nd, 2009 at 14:12 | #2

    Thank you, Ms. Lippi, for taking the time to read my review and leave a comment. Your kind words are very appreciated. “The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square” is a great read. (Read it twice!) I wanted to share this book with others, so they could enjoy it as well.

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