Clay Jannon, newly unemployed, stumbles upon a mysterious bookshop during his frequent wanderings through the streets of San Francisco. The Help Wanted sign in the window seems like a sign of fate and he feels drawn into the bizarrely shaped store filled primarily with antique one-of-a-kind texts. Although far removed from his previous employment as a tech-savvy designer and marketer for a failed startup, Clay accepts the position of overnight sales clerk. Little does he realize that this spontaneous decision will catapult him into a mystery involving an ancient society whose cryptic workings will change the course of his life. Robin Sloan’s unique novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, brings together cutting-edge advances and time-worn tradition as they conflict and combine. Clay discovers that his embrace of new technology and a new-found respect for the methods of the past brings him great reward. Sloan’s novel also explores the idea that good things happen when people of different backgrounds combine their personal strengths and beliefs to solve problems. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a delightful exploration of how curiosity and innovation have acted as universal and timeless inspiration for the advancement of ideas. A good selection for those who enjoy mysteries that are more cerebral than action-packed.
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead "checking out" impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.
With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.
One of the things I regretted last summer was that I wasn't more in touch with the books selected for the Summer Reading program. So I decided as soon as the list was given to us that I would read as many books as I could so that I'd be better prepared for recommending them to our patrons. This is why I picked up Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The story is told through the eyes of Lydia, an 11-year old girl, who is super sensitive about her height...until she is chosen to be a Munchkin and Winged Monkey in her town's production of The Wizard of Oz where it suddenly becomes an advantage. She discovers that her height is just a small (no pun intended) part of her. She makes friends with a fellow cast member named Olive who is herself a dwarf as well as an older neighbor named Mrs. Chang who turns out to have many years of experience with the theater and costume making. My favorite part about this book was the main character, Lydia, who was absolutely hysterical.
An example from page 26-7 as she describes the director of the play she's performing in:
He is for sure older than my parents, who are old, because they are forty-two and forty-four. He might be super-super-super-old. Is he fifty-five? I have no idea.
Sloan totally gets the 'voice' of a child. They have zero concept of age (I've been told I'm 84 so I know from experience) and they also have zero reason to lie to you. Lydia is a well-rounded character who not only makes hilarious asides but also conveys depth of feeling.
When confronted with an awkward conversation about death:
My voice is small. I whisper, "Life is a cabaret." I don't even know what this means, but I heard Shawn Barr say it to Mrs. Chang a few days ago and they both laughed. It works, because she smiles. I'm guessing a cabaret is a kind of wine. I hope she'll have a tall glass. - pg 240
Overall, this was a delightful little read and I've been more than happy to recommend it to the children and parents at my library. If you're a fan of the theater or looking for a book full of heart (or both) well I think you've found your book match. ;-)
A/N: If you're triggered by repeated mentions of pet death then don't come near this book. It's not a spoiler to tell you this is a running theme throughout the book beginning in the first couple of pages. Grief is a large theme explored in this book but I didn't find it as compelling as the self-discovery/acceptance experienced by Lydia.
There are 2 different covers for this one and honestly I like them both quite a bit.
|Source: Barnes & Noble|
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I loved this book! It starts slow with Clay explaining how he got to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore but when he decides there is a mystery about it and it's decided lack of customers it picks up. As I followed Clay and his friends around as they try to unravel the mystery of the bookstore and Mr. Penumbra and his boss, I could not wait for the clues. I loved the pop culture references. When all is revealed I was satisfied. I would love to work in that bookstore.
It is even better the second time around.