REVIEW: At the Seams by Pamela Gwyn Kripke


Review by Constance Garcia-Barrio

In the novel, At The Seams by Pamela Gwyn Kripka, a feisty eight-year-old Katie learns from her mother that years ago, her grandmother had a baby that died under mysterious circumstances. Despite Katie’s questions, her mother refuses to say more about the event. However, “images of dead babies” haunts Katie for a time. She senses that the infant’s demise continues to affect her family. Readers follows Katie from girlhood into her forties as she chips away at her family’s silence about the baby’s death.

Katie also grows up with the family’s cherished tradition of designing and making clothes, which gives the book its name. As Kripke shows how designing and sewing clothes unites the family, she shares secrets of dressmaking: “The dart is the lifeblood of dressmaking.” The lush descriptions of color bathe readers in rainbows.

At The Seams hinges on a traumatic event. The story regales readers with striking images, such as an arm that whips down “like a knife,” or dresses that “…appeared on the screen, like playing cards flipped from a deck.” The novel has comedic episodes, history, sparkling dialogue, and a crisp pace throughout. Kripke offers a clear-eyed, compassionate look at the strengths and struggles of a family and the cost of unacknowledged grief.


Pamela Gwyn Kripke is an award-winning writer whose feature stories and essays have run in newspapers, magazines and online news publications including The New York Times (Sunday Review, National, Real Estate), The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Dallas Morning News, Elle, Seventeen, New York Magazine, Newsweek, D Magazine, D Home, D CEO, Metropolis, American Homestyle, Martha Stewart Living, This Old House, Southern Accents, Crain’s New York Business, American Way, Southwest Magazine, Modern Luxury, Redbook, Child, Family Circle and American Baby.Pamela’s debut novel, At the Seams, was published by the traditional small press, Open Books, in May 2023. It won the Arch Street Press First Chapter Award and was excerpted in several literary magazines. Her story collection, And Then You Apply Ice, is due out from Open Books in Spring 2024.


A native Philadelphian, Constance Garcia-Barrio has published articles about the city’s Black history. She also writes a monthly column for Grid magazine, and occasional opinion pieces for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She won a magazine journalism award from the National Association of Black Journalists for a feature on African Americans in circus history.