I’m not a big fan of shopping for ‘fun’. Browsing the stores, just looking at things, is not fun for me: unless it can be browsing for books. I like browsing even more when those books are on the shelf in the library. The pressure is off when they are library books because my investment is so small. I’m not spending any money. I’m only ‘spending’ the time it takes me to get to the library, find them on the shelves and read a few pages before I decide to continue through to the end. If I decide to abandon ship and return the book without getting to the end, it’s my secret. I love it.
In the past few weeks I have found the most interesting books at the library just by wandering through the shelves while I wait for my daughter to finish up her volunteering shifts at the Summer Reading Club desk. One of the books called out to me when I looked at the spine. I saw the words ‘life of the party’ and was hooked. The complete title is The life of the party: the remarkable story of how Brownie Wise built, and lost, a Tupperware party empire and the nugget of the story is right there in the title. Ms. Wise was an incredible woman who started working as a door-to-door salesperson in the 1950s to support her son. Through an amazing work ethic, incredible charm and supreme attention to detail, she helped to create the success story of the worldwide brand Tupperware. Unfortunately she and founder Earl Tupper had a difficult working relationship which led him to fire her and wipe all traces of her devotion to the brand from Tupperware’s history but that is part of what makes this one a page turner. How did this all happen? It’s a wonderful snapshot of this time in American history, a fly-on-the wall story of an entrepreneur who was the first woman to be on the cover of Businessweek and a chance to be inspired by a determined trailblazer who put herself into every element of her work. It wasn’t exactly the party planning guide I thought it would be but, it’s truly fascinating reading.
Another walk by the Non-Fiction shelf yielded a recent Canadian memoir, Fallen: a trauma, a marriage and the transformative power of music, by Kara Stanley. She is a writer living on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast who has woven current research into brain and spinal cord injuries with the story of her husband’s life-threatening injury from a fall at a construction site. She begins their story talking about a trip to the grocery store where she is indulging her husband’s fondness for an expensive kind of cheese. She knows that the cost is high but she feels she can stretch their family budget for him on this trip. She is a writer and he is a musician who also works as a carpenter and they have a teen son who is away at a soccer camp. While she shops she is thinking about how fortunate their family is and she buys him a block of this delicious cheese. The beauty of the language she uses in these first paragraphs sweeps you right into their romance. When Kara introduces you to the horror of Simon falling from scaffolding two stories down to a tile floor below it’s an instant shock to your system so from the moment she arrives in the intensive care ward to wait for news from his team of specialists you feel like you are right there with her. She has drawn you in with her careful sentences. Kara, Simon and their son Eli are supported by a loving group of family, friends and neighbours and she alternates between sharing the story of their friendships and the technical language of the medical approach being taken. Once I had the book in my hands I almost couldn’t stop reading it but I would have passed it by if not for the subtle style of the cover design. The broken fifth line in the staff caught my eye and made me wonder how the author was going to talk about the ‘healing power of music’. It’s quite a force as music has an important part in their love and Simon’s life and the book is worth reading to find out more. So many of the songs they talk about will be familiar, it’s like you have a soundtrack running through your mind as you read.
I found a much lighter read, something for the beach or cottage, on the Fiction shelves. The cover had a distinct Audrey Hepburn look to it in bright pink with black and I just could not resist taking it home. It’s called Nine women, one dress (although I keep telling people that the title is ‘one dress, nine women’ but I end up finding it in the catalogue anyway) and it’s a debut novel by a writer from the Huffington Post. She lives in New York City which won’t surprise you when you read this book because it gives off that vibe instantly, like you are walking the city streets and riding the subway with the characters, and each chapter introduces you to a different person who comes into contact with the dress. It’s not just any dress, it’s the LBD of the season! It’s the dress that every model wants to wear and we all get to be front and centre as the dress walks down the catwalk for the first time, meet the veteran of the New York fashion scene who cut out the pattern to make it (he is my favourite character), several women who wear it for special occasions, a private detective who is investigating a case that involves the dress, one behind-the-scenes Broadway scandal and more than one romance. It’s light but never silly and seems like a Garry Marshall film but I think that is charming. I loved the book and if I found this dress in a store I might even wear it but… I don’t really like shopping. Except for books. At my local public library.
– – Penny M.