Chas. Johnson & Sons has been a family operation for three generations—grandfather, father and son. But when it comes time for Gabe Johnson to take the reins of the business, the world of books has changed, and the combination of the internet and inner city rents forces the store to close. But instead of folding his hand, Gabe decides to risk everything he has and reopen the shop—and, in a sense restart his life—in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Haunted his entire life by an obsession with a former lover, he finds her again only to be faced with yet another even more difficult challenge that threatens the well-being of the revival of the bookstore as well as the fate of his rekindled relationship.
About the Author
Robert Hellenga was educated at the University of Michigan and Princeton University. He is a professor emeritus at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and the author of the novels The Confessions of Frances Godwin, Snakewoman of Little Egypt, The Sixteen Pleasures, The Fall of a Sparrow, Blues Lessons, Philosophy Made Simple, The Italian Lover and the short story collection, The Truth About Death. He lives in Galesburg, Illinois.
"All of Hellenga's novels revel in the details of their protagonists' occupations, and this one is no different: it is an ode to physical books, their smell and feel, but also to the idea of both living life and reading about it, not choosing one over the other."
— Booklist, starred review
“Elegantly moving… Everything about the narrator and the heroine of this novel is appealing right from the first paragraph… Like her, the book is modest, resourceful, and without malice—it is high-minded and fine.”
— New Yorker on The Sixteen Pleasures
“Conveys a sense of certainty and ultimate truth that only the finest writing can achieve. It is an extraordinary novel.”
— Washington Post on The Fall of a Sparrow
"Let’s add Robert Hellenga to the lists of American’s most admired fiction writers... he once again has produced a novel that adds immeasurably to the pleasures of reading contemporary fiction.”
— Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune, on Philosophy Made Simple
“Sweet and lovely. A charmingly picaresque tale.”
— The New York Times on Philosophy Made Simple
“Don’t start reading this book if you’ve got a dinner party coming up in the next few days, or a committee meeting or a golf game. You’ll be calling people up with fake excuses and feeling bad about yourself—at least that’s what happened to me… A masterpiece.”
— The Washington Post on Snakewoman of Little Egypt
“The beauty of this novel and, in fact, of all of Hellenga’s work, lies in the scrupulous attention he pays to those different shapes that life takes.”
— Booklist on The Confessions of Frances Godwin