Shelf Life Review
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After recovering from a battle with breast cancer, novelist Suzanne Strempek Shea needed something to get her back into the world ó preferably something not too serious or demanding, perhaps even fun. So when a friend, the owner of Edwards Books in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, asked if Suzanne knew anyone looking for a bookstore job, Shea jumped at the chance. Itís a good thing she did ó for her and her readers. She went on to have a great time learning what itís like to sell books as well as write them, and we readers now have her delightful perspective on the world of books and bookstores.

Shea worked several days a week at Edwards Books and gives us a fascinating inside look at the people she works with, as well as the storeís regular and occasional customers. She glides from humorous observations about sappy greeting cards to serious treatment of 9-11 books with grace and care. The book is also full of enjoyable insight into the Western Massachusetts literary scene and the hundreds of books Shea handled during her bookstore duties.

Shelf Life is, above all else, a love letter to books, book sellers, book buyers, and book readers. Shea accents her insiderís tale of Edwards Books with accounts of her lifelong dedication to the written word and the way it is packaged into books and bookstores. In a world dominated by superstore book chains and online book ordering options, Shea makes a strong case for quirky, loving, independent bookstores.

Sheaís book certainly had an effect on me. From now on, Iíll use Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders primarily for research, browsing, and perhaps munching on an overpriced pastry or two. But when I want to buy a book, Iím going to my local independent bookstore to help keep its doors open for business. Iím lucky because Edwards Books is just ten miles up the highway from my homeóbut thereís undoubtedly a great little bookstore within driving distance of most dedicated readers. Perhaps Iíll even pick up a copy of Songs From a Lead-Lined Room, Sheaís memoir about her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from breast cancer, or her forthcoming new novel, Becoming Finola. Perhaps Iíll even get Shea to sign her books Ö as she notes in the epilogue of Shelf Life, sheís still working at Edwards Books three years after she took the job.

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