Review: Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo
To raise money for her move to New York, Scarlet Santana opens an after-hours sewing school in a local record shop. As classmates become friends, and Scarlet moves from teacher to pupil, everyone will learn that there is no single pattern for a good life. Happiness is always a custom fit. – (Publisher’s Description)
I was a little intimidated by this book at first. Yes, I know, it looks wholly un-intimidating. It was one of those cases where it was a stress filled couple of days, and I knew it needed to be read so I could get my review up in time for the tour. I felt like watching movies and eating ice-cream instead (both of which are nearly impossible to do while reading a book, trust me on this). I wasn’t sure what I was going to have in common with a book with sewing in the title, honestly. I haven’t sewn since the 8th grade and I’m not especially crafty so I was hesitant. Was this going to be some women bonding over being amazing crafty housewives thing? Because, well…that’s not me.
But we read to learn about the world around us. To imagine. To learn about ourselves, right? I’d give it fifty pages, because I owed it that. So I did. This wasn’t the kind of book that I bonded with right away. It took that first fifty pages and a few more for me to feel comfortable enough in this world to relax and enjoy these characters. Right from the start these women were all so strong, so fearless, so confident that I had a bit of a hard time relating to them. I wondered if it was a cultural thing. Scarlet and almost all the other characters in this book are Mexican American. And then I worried, that if it was a cultural thing, there was something wrong with me for not relating. Yes, I worry too much, I realize this.
It was a little surreal though. I live in Phoenix where this book is set, but this felt like an entirely different city than the one I know. Phoenix is a really big place, but almost none of the places mentioned were familiar to me. I felt a little left out of the club. After a while though, it’s funny, and I couldn’t tell you what page it happened on… I just started to care about these women. These loud, kooky, crafty women with their career bumps, their family & relationship dramas (that much I could relate to) and their stubborn pride and most of all their love for each other. There was a subtle underlying mystery which drew me in as well. It’s a book about women who make choices, who sometimes stumble and fall, but who have friends and family there to support them and pick up the pieces along the way. It’s about going after your dreams, your passions and ultimately it’s a smiling-to-yourself, feel-good, empowering read.
There were a few things that bothered me a bit. Mostly circling around Scarlet’s success, an almost overnight love, some very zany fashion world happenstance in New York and as much as I was rooting for her to have it all in the end, it felt a little fairy tale for me. I know she works very hard in the book towards her dream, it just felt as if the payoff was maybe bigger than what she had earned, and even I think what the character really needed to be happy. It made for a great story, it just left me with a bit of a “this could never happen” taste in my mouth in the end. And I think I wanted to see Scarlet find her place in the world that was real and still true to her dream without being a fairy tale. I wanted to know how it would have really ended for a girl like her.
But, there were many things I really loved here as well. While all the characters do have a nice growth arc, it was nice to see for a change that for most of the characters that didn’t mean becoming more successful, more fearless or capable. These already were strong, intelligent female characters and it was interesting to watch them grow into their creativity and common sense and their hearts. It’s not a story we see often enough. I kept thinking about my own choices and relationships and my pattern for my life as I read. It really is a great metaphor for life. I laughed out loud at some of the projects these women created and was delighted to see that the author had included directions for a few in the end of the book. She also included a little Spanglish glossary, which I wish I’d seen before I started reading. Living in Arizona so long, I had picked up most of the words she peppers throughout the book, but there were a few I was curious about as I read. Most of all I suppose I simply fell in love with these characters, more than anything by the end of the book I really wished I could drive over to the other side of town and take Miss Scarlet’s class because a) it would probably do me some good, and b) I would be proud to call any one of these fierce women my friends.
Cover Story: B-
This cover is nice. I think maybe it’s just a little too nice. It’s just lacking the creativity, the zaniness, the spark, and the passion in the lives of the women in this book. I’m pretty sure Mary Theresa designed it before she enrolled in Miss Scarlet’s class and afterwards it was covered in bright colors and sequins.
ARC Courtesy of Publisher
Title: Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo
Genre: Adult, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 8, 2011)
ISBN: 044650923X (ISBN13: 9780446509237)
Known as the Crafty Chica, Kathy Cano-Murillo is a journalist who turned her passion for art into her profession. Her business empire includes books, TV appearances, a nationally syndicated newspaper column, and her own Crafty Chica product line.