The Magic Room: A Story about the Love We Wish for Our Daughters

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The New York Times bestselling journalist and author of The Girls from Ames, Jeffrey Zaslow, takes us to a multi- generational family owned small-town bridal shop to explore the emotional lives of women in the 21st century.

You may not have heard of Fowler, Michigan, much less Becker's Bridal. But for the thousands of women who have stepped inside, Becker's is the site of some of the most important moments of their lives-moments that speak to us all. Housed in a former bank, the...

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The Magic Room: A Story about the Love We Wish for Our Daughters

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The New York Times bestselling journalist and author of The Girls from Ames, Jeffrey Zaslow, takes us to a multi- generational family owned small-town bridal shop to explore the emotional lives of women in the 21st century.

You may not have heard of Fowler, Michigan, much less Becker's Bridal. But for the thousands of women who have stepped inside, Becker's is the site of some of the most important moments of their lives-moments that speak to us all. Housed in a former bank, the boutique owners transformed the vault into a "magic room," with soft church lighting, a circular pedestal, and mirrors that make lifelong dreams come true.

Illuminating the poignant aspects of a woman's journey to the altar, The Magic Room tells the stories of memorable women on the brink of commitment. Run by the same family for years, Becker's has witnessed transformations in how America views the institution of marriage; some of the shop's clientele are becoming stepmothers, or starting married life for a second time. In The Girls from Ames, beloved author Jeffrey Zaslow used friendships to explore the emotional lives of women. In The Magic Room, he turns his perceptive eye to weddings and weaves together secrets, memories and family tales to explore the hopes and dreams we have for our daughters.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This tender, intimate study of the changing nature of wedlock by journalist Zaslow (The Girls from Ames) traces the many generations of devoted customers at a Michigan bridal shop. Once upon a time, when Becker’s Bridal shop in the tiny middle-class town of Fowler, Mich., first opened during the Depression, it took the bride-to-be and her mother an average of an hour to try on three or four of matriarch Eva Becker’s modestly priced dresses; now it takes at least 30 tries and numerous hours to seize on the right gown—at a cost of to ,600 per. The current owner, Eva’s granddaughter Shelley Becker Mueller, a 45-year-old divorcée whose daughter, Alyssa, works with her in the store, is “in the magic business,” selling bridal gowns among mostly knowing Midwestern families, who line up for the chance to try on lovely specimens and model them in the so-called Magic Room (formerly the bank vault of the building), rimmed by mirrors, and graced by soft lighting and Sinatra tunes. Naturally, the Detroit-based author, now a columnist at the Wall Street Journal, with three daughters of his own, elicits personal stories from worthy brides-to-be captured at the store, such as the Baptist-raised local daughter who along with her three sisters swore “a vow of purity” until marriage; the 40-year-old marrying for the first time; and the young lady maimed in a car crash whose fiancé stood by her. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In the small town of Fowler, MI, Becker's Bridal has served over 100,000 brides-to-be since the mid-1930s. Along the way, fashions and customs have changed as brides have visited the store's so-called Magic Room to gaze at endless mirrored images of themselves in their wedding gown, an apt metaphor for Zaslow (columnist, Wall Street Journal; The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship) as they reflect on their lives, relationships, and dreams for the future. Zaslow shadows half a dozen of the women who go to Becker's Bridal, listening to their stories and writing a compelling and sincere chronology of the experiences, tragedies, and love that led them to the shop. His narrative is sprinkled with fascinating statistical information concerning marriage and divorce, as well as his cultural analysis and observations concerning family and spousal relationships and insights into the lives and relationships of the four generations of Becker women who have worked at the store. VERDICT Not an examination of today's marriage industry but a study of individual lives and dreams, this is recommended for casual readers and those with an interest in cultural and social customs concerning marriage, women's roles, and parent-child relationships.—Jennifer Harris, Mercyhurst Coll. North East Lib., Erie, PA
Kirkus Reviews
Wall Street Journal columnist Zaslow (The Girls from Ames, 2009, etc.) delivers an emotive excursion through the world of parents and daughters and the state of marriage in the United States. The author approaches his subjects via a small-town Michigan bridal shop, a canny choice in that he can take measure of the heartland while framing the bigger picture through sociological studies and then tightening down to his own fears and hopes as a father of three girls. The town of Fowler has only 1,100 residents, but it is a major crossroads in many lives: Becker's Bridal has sold more than 100,000 gowns over nearly eight decades and four generations of Beckers. Zaslow writes in a tone of inclusive intimacy, focusing on six women who went to Becker's to find the right dress. The author plucks at the heartstrings as he relates all the yearnings of the brides-to-be and the travails they encounter on the way to the alter. Zaslow offers plenty of statistics about love and marriage, but they pale in comparison to the everyday stories of the complex circumstances that often surround the big day. "A wedding is a happy life-cycle event, yes, but the harsher life-cycle moments aren't kept at bay until after the wedding […] weddings are often optimistic islands surrounded by oceans of uncertainty, loneliness, and grief," he writes. "For some women, a bridal gown can feel like a life preserver." The author's vignettes of the six women are wildly dissimilar, but they weave together into a complicated damascene that holds true to much age-old wisdom: Marriage involves serious demands on patience, endless petty annoyances and many compromises, as well as modesty, respect and duty. Zaslow's profile of the bridal shop, from the geopolitics of dressmaking to the effects of TV shows like Bridezillas, is almost as riveting as the bridal tales.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Magic Room has all the makings of a cozy, nostalgic wedding read. Tulle, check. Satin and organza, check. Bridezillas, drama and tears? Yes, yes, yes….the highlight of the book is the comings and goings of bride after bride through Becker's, Zaslow also details the excitement and joy of getting married and the commitment and dedication it takes to stay married.
The Washington Post
Interesting, rewarding and heartbreaking
The New York Times
Shows the poignancy in everyday love stories.
People Magazine
A tenderhearted portrait of a bridal store in a small Michigan town... In a handful of their stories, Zaslow gently delineates the changing lives of women and finds—in among the mishaps, misunderstandings and tragedies that derail many relationships—ample evidence of the enduring power of marriage.
Detriot News
The book itself — to use the manliest possible term — is lovely. As lovely as a bride.
Columbus Dispatch
Anyone looking for happily-ever-afters will find plenty of them here.
“Zaslow captures the joy, hope, love and magic.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592406616
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Zaslow
Jeffrey Zaslow is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Girls from Ames and coauthor of Highest Duty, with Chesley Sullenberger, as well as The Last Lecture, with Randy Pausch. A Wall Street Journal columnist, he lives in suburban Detroit with his wife and their three daughters.


Jeffrey Zaslow is one of a handful of journalists who have carved successful careers out of the human side of reportage. In 1987, while working for the Wall Street Journal, he learned of a competition sponsored by the Chicago Sun-Times to replace retired advice columnist Ann Landers. Seeking an angle for a feature story, he entered the contest and ended up winning the job over a field of more than 12,000 applicants. He worked for the Sun Times from 1987 until 2001, dispensing sage, common-sense advice and using his journalistic influence to benefit several charities and community causes.

Zaslow has returned to writing for Wall Street Journal, but his features, unlike those of his colleagues, are not centered on the world of finance. In an award-winning column called "Moving On," he chronicles the often emotionally charged human interest stories behind various life transitions -- from marriage to divorce and from career change to retirement. It was in pursuit of just such a story that he found his greatest fame.

In 2007, Zaslow learned about an unusual event to be held at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. A computer science professor named Randy Pausch was scheduled to take part in a popular series of campus talks that invites teachers to present hypothetical "last lectures" to their students. But, what made this talk different was the total absence of hypothesis: Recently diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer. Pausch was, indeed, addressing the student body for the last time. Zaslow attended the jam-packed lecture and wrote about it in his column, helping to fuel worldwide interest and an Internet phenomenon. Pausch and Zaslow collaborated on The Last Lecture, a book-length narrative that served not just as a compendium of life lessons, but as a moving testimony to Pausch's optimism and courage. The book was published in April of 2008 and became an international bestseller. Pausch died three months later.

After Pausch's death, Zaslow returned to a project he had spent many months pursuing: the biography of an extraordinary, enduring friendship among 11 women who had grown up together in the American Midwest. Revelatory, inspiring, and shot through with the optimism and emotional resonance that distinguishes all of Zaslow's writing, The Girls from Ames was published in April of 2009.

Good To Know

Some fun outtakes from our interview with Jeffrey Zaslow:
"I sold hot dogs for 4 years in college in the stands at Philadelphia Phillies games."

"When I was an advice columnist in Chicago, I hosted a singles party for charity every fall. We'd have 7,000 attendees a year, and 78 marriages resulted."

"I had never been to Ames, Iowa, before I began reporting The Girls From Ames."

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    1. Hometown:
      West Bloomfield, MI
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, PA
    1. Education:
      B.A., Creative Writing, Carnegie Mellon University, 1980

Interviews & Essays

As a journalist, and as the father of three girls, I often find myself drawn by an urge to explore the bonds between parents and daughters. In all the books I've written, this has been a powerful theme.

When I coauthored The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch, his youngest child, Chloe, was not yet two years old. I saw how desperately Randy wanted to leave her whatever wisdom he could. He wished he had 20 years to offer her advice, but he had just a few months, because he was dying of pancreatic cancer. His legacy would be the words in the book.

I later coauthored Highest Duty, the memoir of pilot "Sully" Sullenberger, who famously landed a crippled jet in New York's Hudson River. He and I spent a lot of time talking about his love for his two teen-aged daughters, and his regrets about missing so much of their lives while he was away from home, flying passengers to their destinations.

Most recently, I collaborated with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, on their memoir, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope. The congresswoman had been shot in the head in an assassination attempt, and I saw the great power in parental love. Gabby spent several weeks in a medically induced coma, and her mom kept a vigil at her bedside. "I feel like my breathing is helping Gabby breathe," her mother told me. "I just want to share the air in the room, like maybe my breath will sustain her."

I've seen equally poignant parent-daughter bonds in the relationships of the less-well-known people I've written about.

For The Girls from Ames, I profiled ten women, now in their mid-forties, who grew up together in Ames, Iowa. The book was focused on their forty-year friendship, but I was also moved by the women's relationships with their parents as they were growing up. In an early scene in the book, one of the Ames girls was about to go out of town to college, and she was crying because she feared she'd miss her parents.

"Here's what we'll do," her father told her. "We're going to keep you at the end of our fishing line. And if you ever need anything, you just give a little tug and we'll reel you back in."

Working on all of those books - observing again and again the power of parental affection - led me to my latest project. I wanted to write a nonfiction narrative reflecting on the love we all wish for our daughters. My girls are now ages 22, 20 and 16, and I know they will continue to need love in their lives - from me, my wife, each other, and someday I hope, from their husbands and children. How could I address all of the feelings that parents like me have?

I recognized that I needed a place to set this new book, a place with great emotion. I considered many possibilities. Maybe I'd visit maternity wards, dance studios, daddy-daughter date nights, or spas where mothers and daughters go to bond. But then my wife suggested I find a bridal shop. Maybe that would be a place to set my story.

"There's something about a wedding dress..." she said.

She was definitely on to something.

I was willing to go anywhere in the country to find the right store and the right stories. My search ended in the tiny, one-stoplight town of Fowler, Mich., a place with just 1,100 residents — and 2,500 wedding dresses. It has more bridal gowns per capita than anywhere in the United States.

Fowler is home to Becker's Bridal, a 77-year-old institution on Main Street. It's been run for all those years by the same family - a great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and daughter.

The store is housed in a stone structure that was once a bank, and since 1934, more than 100,000 brides have made a pilgrimage here. After they select the dress they think might be "the one," they're invited to step inside what used to be the old bank vault. A ten-foot-by-eight-foot space with mirrors designed to carry a bride's image into infinity, it's called "The Magic Room," and with good reason. Brides and their parents routinely melt into tears there, as they reflect on all the moments that led them to that dress, that room, that moment.

And so I set out to write a book about the brides and their parents who've stepped into that special space. The book is titled The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters.(

I focused the book on six brides and their families whose paths to Becker's Bridal were not necessarily easy, but who have given great thought to the love that guides and connects them. I felt privileged standing in the Magic Room with these families whose stories touched me the most, and while there, contemplating my feelings for my own daughters.

People often ask me what my books have in common. I've come to realize that they are all about the same thing — love. For every book I've written, I've brought a reporter's instincts, but also a father's heart. In many respects, The Magic Room is a culmination of a great many feelings swirling inside of me.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 25 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2012

    A Beautiful Read!

    Loved this book. A good read for men too with daughters. While reading this book I was saddened to hear that Mr.Zaslow passed away in an accident..and would never see his daughters get married.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2012

    Kritters Ramblings

    A book full of stories that made me laugh, cry and hope for the future. Taking place in a coveted room inside a family owned bridal boutique that has been open for many decades and many generations have found their all important wedding dress. Grandmothers are now accompanying their grand daughters on this special shopping trip. Author of The Girls From Ames, Jeffrey Zaslow gets to the heart of how the relationships between women, whether it be mother/daughter, grandmother/granddaughter, or bride/friend; the art of shopping for the wedding dress has changed over the year and the quest for the dress is as important as many of the other wedding decisions that are made.

    This act is something that I have dreamed about for years with my mom, sister and those I hold close to me. I can't wait to try on a few dresses and get some honest opinions from, the big butt to utter perfection - these are what dreams are made of! Zaslow highlights different brides that have entered through their doors and what brought them to this special decision. Not only does he chronicle the history of the store, but the family behind this landmark in Fowler, Michigan.

    Such a great book for women of all ages - young and old and in between will enjoy this book as they remember their own shopping adventures or have had a few dreams about their upcoming shopping adventures.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A touching book with real warmth

    I often read non-fiction but mostly current affairs or history, so I’m not sure what possessed me to request to take part in Crazy Book Tour’s virtual book tour for The Magic Room. I suppose all I can say is that every now and again a book ‘speaks’ to you and cries out to be read (much like the cookies that – ahem – cry out to be eaten).

    The Magic Room was one such book. I was intrigued by the description and the idea of a book that examined such a wide range of relationships: the relationship between marriage and the modern world. The relationship between mothers or fathers and daughters. The relationship between the bridal dream and the fiscal reality.

    Jeffrey Zaslow chose to set his book about “the Love We Wish for Our Daughters” in a bridal shop and I think doing so was a masterstroke. In that one decision he opened up boundless possibilities and the book embraces many of them fully. The Magic Room is a wonderful mix of anecdotes, family history, economic history and statistics. The book is related with warmth and humour, with touching stories interspersed with tongue-in-cheek media story mentions or interesting cultural references. It is neither preachy nor too touchy-feely but instead is a wonderful balance of all the things a marriage is: some ups, downs, worries, good times, cross words, touching speeches, advice, memories and, perhaps most importantly, hope.

    It’s now coming up to two years since I got married. I ordered my gown via the internet and decided to forego the full bridal experience of bridal shop, dress fittings etc. Despite not having had the experience, I can see the magic behind The Magic Room (in terms of both the book itself and the ‘magic’ room within the bridal store Beckers) and understand why it is so important to the people that frequent the store, the owners, the community. Don’t be lured into thinking this is ‘just’ a tale of a bridal store, though. The history of Beckers is, indeed, fascinating but even beyond that, this is a work that offers so very much more.

    **I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All views are my own.**

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2012

    It's Not Just About the Dress.....

    I was extremely excited when I found out I had the opportunity to review this book. I loved both of Zaslow's previous books THE LAST LECTURE and THE GIRLS FROM AMES. I had a feeling I would love this one too, and I did. Zaslow wrote this in much the same style as THE GIRLS FROM AMES, giving each bride their own chapter and then coming back to them at the end with their follow-up story. Even though this is non-fiction, it reads smoothly and the emotion of each woman's story is the focus over the research studies that filter thoughout.

    I found all the history of brides, bridal dress shopping and familial relationships extremely interesting and made me think of my own dress shopping days. I myself had two bridal dress shopping days, one when I was 20 and one when I was 25. I never got to wear the first dress as I ended up breaking off the engagement, but the two shopping experiences were vastly different and reflected much of the research and experiences in the book. I am sure you will also reflect on both your dress shopping day and your wedding day as you read the stories in this book. I remember the dress I ended up with was one I never would have picked out, but once I put it on, the tears and the emotions were immediately there. It was THE ONE.

    What I also appreciated about this book was that even though it focuses on the bride, the dress and the big day, through the stories, it reminds you “It’s not just about the dress, the flowers, the reception. It’s about the man and the marriage and the life that will follow” (p. 256).

    Keep the tissue box close by as you travel through the stories in this book. Zaslow knew just whose stories to tell and you will want to know how each bride is doing after finishing the book. By going to the book website, you may be able to see updates and find other information about the book and the author. Even though I have finished the book, I know the marriages and lives featured in this story go on. I am praying all of them are blessed by the telling of their stories and their marriages are long, loving and strong.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Highly Recommend as this book is so personal. Every girl who was or will be a bride will love the way this book was written. It is also with great sadness the Jeffrey Zaslow died yesterday on an icey road in Michigan.

    A wonderful book written for all those brides who will be brides or have been brides in the past.

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  • Posted January 12, 2012

    The Magic Room ~ Delivers!

    Story telling as only Jeffery Zaslow can deliver.
    The book contains a historical account of the bridal shop, Becker’s; legacy of how this shop started, and keeps going and will be remembered in the future.
    Tucked between the pages are the lives of brides who come to Becker’s Bridal Shop to purchase their gowns; it is so much more than just the dress. The brides life, their story is told ~ it brings you to that moment when “The” dress is tried-on in the magical room of mirrors and lights to “just knowing” not only that this is the gown, but that life has woven together up-to this moment.
    Be part of the treasure that this story contains; read it with a box of tissues close by and know at the end of the book, you will want to know what happens next to the brides, who stories have been tenderly revealed in ‘The Magic Room’.

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