Synopses & Reviews
Suzanne Shea has always loved a good book and she's written five of them, all acclaimed. In the course of her ten-year career, she's done a good bit of touring, including readings and drop-ins at literally hundreds of bookstores. She never visited one that wasn't memorable.
Two years ago, while recovering from radiation therapy, Shea heard from a friend who was looking for help at her bookstore. Shea volunteered, seeing it as nothing more than a way to get out of her pajamas and back into the world. But over next twelve months, from St. Patrick's Day through Poetry Month, graduation/Father's Day/summer reading/Christmas and back again to those shamrock displays, Shea lived and breathed books in a place she says sells "ideas, stories, encouragement, answers, solace, validation, the basic ammunition for daily life." Her work was briefly interrupted by an author tour that took her to other great bookstores. Descriptions of these and her memories of book-lined rooms reaching all the way back to childhood visits to the Bookmobile are scattered throughout this charming, humorous, and engrossing account of reading and rejuvenation.
For anyone who loves books, and especially for anyone who has fallen under the spell of a special bookstore, Shelf Life will be required reading.
"To fill the time as she recovered from cancer and chemotherapy, Strempek Shea volunteered at a friend's independent bookstore in Springfield, Mass. An accomplished novelist (Around Again; Lily of the Valley), Strempek Shea felt at first like a spy 'a farmer hanging around the dairy section' as she observed customers in constant discovery of books. Despite the bleak reason for her new job, she embraced it with delight and here recounts her sojourn at Edwards Books with humor and passion. Not a great deal happens though, even during the coverage of 9/11. She looks at the small, independent bookstore, and how it stays in business. Although she can't help making fun of the inane questions she's sometimes asked ('What would you recommend for a flight to California? I'll be sleeping most of the time'), she lovingly portrays devoted book folks, such as 'the tiny older woman who arrives on her payday to buy two or three more mysteries. The young woman who received the call that the latest of the Gothic novels her mother collects have arrived.' The author also shares droll, albeit tacitly self-promoting, insights on the tour for her latest book ('there are maybe forty people at my reading, and I even know two of them!'). As readers absorb the life of the bookstore and author, many will be tempted to look for the titles she drops throughout the work. Book enthusiasts who pine for a friendly, like-minded community will love this light, funny memoir." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Suzanne Strempek Shea, winner of the 2000 New England Book Award for Fiction, is the author of four novels, Selling the Lite of Heaven, Hoopi Shoopi Donna, Lily of the Valley, and Around Again, and the memoir Songs from a Lead-Lined Room: Notes High and Low From My Journey through Breast Cancer and Radiation. She lives in Bondsville, Massachusetts, and sells books at Edwards Books in Springfield.