It's dark outside, Hubs won't be home for another 4 hours and Layla (the lab) is leaning against my right elbow and making this a bit awkward, but I am about to do something I've been looking forward to for weeks.
If you are a reader and a book lover you are going to thank me for this blog post. I came across a totally delightful new book, just out last October, at my local library, called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch. The subtitle reads "a memoir of friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book". Gotcha ya already right?
This is the second time I have started reading a book thinking it is a cute fictional story and soon discover that it is real and happening right now! Wendy and her husband Jack left big, but frustrating jobs, bought an old house in a tiny town and turned the first floor into a used bookstore. They live in the upstairs section along with a couple of dogs and some cats that come and go among the bookstore customers.
The cadence of Wendy Welch's writing captured me right away. I found myself laughing out loud as she describes the obstacles and adventures of moving to a new town and instantly becoming the odd couple that old-timers called "Nuts!" for wanting to open a used bookstore.
I always depend on the first sentence of a book to let me know if it will be going home with me.......
"People talk about following their bliss, but if you're stubborn, unobservant sods like Jack and me, your bliss pretty much has to beat you over the head until you see things in a new light."
.......Oh yes, this one is a keeper! (But mine has to go back to the library. I do have a birthday coming up this month though! So subtle, huh?)
After the writer describes the crazy shenanigans (she would approve of that word I am sure) they go through to gather enough books to sell or trade and publicize their grand opening, she then goes on to tell us about the wonderful cast of local characters that are regular customers to the little book-stuffed house.
I am tempted to begin sharing the stories but they are much better in the writer's voice. I will say that this book made me look at people differently. Wendy and Jack did not simply open a business. The bookstore became a community hub, a safe place for spending quiet time, silly time and creative time. In the evening hours the bookstore is open for knitting night, music events and discussion groups. Jack and Wendy almost become pastors as they are a listening ear and a tissue supplier when needed.
The writer describes tearful moments when a customer finds a book from her childhood or someone drags in a cardboard box of books to donate from a late loved one's library. There are always animals around because Wendy fosters pets while finding them homes. But the kitties Val-Kyttie and Beulah live there and lounge among the books and hand-crafted local items for sale.
Have you ever read a book that makes you want to love people better? This little book does that for me. Jack and Wendy are "dangerously over-educated" (her words), but their hearts are wide open to the curiously quirky people of a small coal mining town in Virginia. They accept each one just as they are even if the first instinct was to bolt the door. Actually there was at least one time that they locked the doors and went upstairs for dinner when a quiet customer was still "shopping" unknown to them!
When I stop and write down a quote from a book while in the first reading, that is something special. On page 31 during the initial reading in my comfy bed, I grabbed a pen and paper and copied this while reading it aloud to Hubs....
"Hope coupled with hard work can even trump stupidity."
That is how Wendy describes this crazy journey to finding their bliss...or getting bopped on the head with it! If you are a bibliophile, you will eat this book up. Wendy and Jack's love for the written word is contagious and obvious as she discusses book covers, book aromas and how to use old obsolete encyclopedias. Used books have a special history and personality that a new book will not carry.
This couple have found their happy place among the books that have lived in other homes, schools and stores. But even more than paper and ink, they have found a glorious place with good friends that have become family while thumbing through the used books and tea cups that are always at the ready.
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