Unfortunately, I haven’t been living a very #plotdrivenlife lately. Mike and I bought a new house last month, and with the incredible support of my parents who flew in from Canada, we’ve been madly unpacking, cleaning and renovating the house to make it our own. We still have MANY projects to tackle, but we started by tearing down wallpaper and painting. Seriously, my parents are some of the most generous and hard-working folks I know.
Besides taking on a fixer-upper, school started back, of course, and I’m really missing the fact I could trot around on a horse in the middle of a Wednesday morning only a month ago! My hope is to continue to post new #plotdrivenlife experiences twice per month. This time, I want to share a book that inspired a love letter.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
“Quaint” is the best word I can think of to describe this book. If you can listen to the audio version, it’s superb– read by alternating male and female Aussie narrators– and it adds to the book’s “quaintness.”
Readers first meet Rachel, still reeling from the drowning death of her brother Cal ten months prior. After failing her last year of high school, Rachel is lamenting the fact she’s being forced to move in with her unorthodox Aunt Rose who lives in the town Rachel grew up in. Rachel is especially bothered by the fact she’ll have to see Henry, her former best friend who ignored a love letter she left him three years ago.
Henry is devastated; his longtime girlfriend Amy has admitted she doesn’t love him, and he’s stuck with a round-the-world plane ticket he bought to accompany her. At the same time, Henry’s parents are toying with the idea of selling his childhood home/family business– a used bookshop called “Howling Books,” and it’s causing major family drama.
Rachel reluctantly accepts a tedious job at Howling Books; she’s responsible for cataloging the “Letter Library,” a unique part of the shop where visitors can write messages and leave letters in specific books. Slowly, Rachel and Henry begin to rebuild their friendship, but she still can’t find the strength to tell Henry that Cal is gone. When her old feelings for Henry start to resurface, will Amy get in the way again?
This book has so much going for it. It explores grief, friendship, forgiveness, love, and regret and the author balances all of these topics very well. As I read, I wanted to visit Howling Books which takes on a life of its on. The story is sweet and unique, and I loved the Australian dialect. So very good, and sure to be a winner with young adults.
A Love Letter to a Bookstore
As I read Cath Crowley’s book, I couldn’t help but think about the little used bookstore of my childhood called, The Book Bin.
Much like Howling Books takes on its own personality in Words in Deep Blue, The Book Bin has a distinctive personality to me; it’s a place I spent many cozy hours as a kid, usually with my younger sister, Jenn.
To celebrate The Book Bin and for this week’s #plotdrivenlife experience, I wrote a love letter/story to The Book Bin:
Dearest Book Bin,
Once upon a time, there were two young girls whose parents loved to read. They read together while sipping after-dinner coffee in the living room. They read side-by-side, propped up in bed each night, sometimes illuminated by a book-light. They read while they lounged under the shade of the camper awning on family vacations. They read a lot. Sometimes they shared books like those by John Grisham and Wilbur Smith. Other times the mom preferred romance and mystery and the dad liked action and adventure. Regardless of what they were reading, their daughters took notice, and they started to read a lot, too. Like their parents, they shared favorite books like those by Lurlene McDaniel and Ann M. Martin. Very soon, the girls were reading so much that the parents decided something must be done about it.
The parents introduced the girls to a magical place an easy walk from their house called The Book Bin. The Book Bin was a small shop filled to capacity with pre-loved books. When the family first visited together, the mom left a large stack of books on the counter, and Pat, the shop’s owner, traded her for a magical white slip of paper. With that slip of paper, the girls were allowed to choose books from the shop’s shelves and not have to pay for them. The girls thought this was amazing! Even better, the shop’s bright blue awning was easy to spot from school, and the sisters often walked to the shop on their way home, the magical white paper in one of their pockets, ready to show Pat.
The girls could lose track of time in the back of the shop where they sifted through books by Dahl, Stine, Montgomery and Pascal. They were delighted by the fact that Pat’s Cocker Spaniel often slept contentedly in her bed underneath the cash register, and they were wowed by the idea that Pat spent her whole day surrounded by books, making magical transactions happen for all kinds of people. After the girls had made their choices and showed Pat their ticket, they marched home, excited to delve into their newest literary adventures.
As the girls grew into ladies, they continued to visit The Book Bin, though less often. They stopped by every so often to pick up Mary Higgins Clark and LaVryle Spencer, following in their mother’s fiction footsteps. Soon, though, both girls had moved out of their parents’ house and lived in far away cities. One of the girls parlayed her love of books into a job as an English teacher and then a school librarian. The other works in a fancy office, but continues to read voraciously.
Now women in their thirties, the sisters have very fond memories of The Book Bin, the little shop that fed their childhood hunger for reading. When they are able to come to town, they try to make a point of stopping by the shop just to smell the book-y scent, run their fingers along the cracked spines and pet the newer resident pup. The shop’s awning is no longer blue, and the sisters no longer have a magical slip of paper, but just stepping into the shop can transport them back to their happy, book-filled childhood.
We love you, Book Bin!
~Kelly Oliva & Jennifer McLaren
I’m sending Book Bin owner Pat a copy of this letter, and I hope it brings a smile to her face.
I’m definitely planning a visit to the shop when I return to my hometown this Christmas. It’s been too long.
PS: A huge thanks to my dad who (sneakily) took all of the photos included in this post.