Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's Never Too Late to Read a Great Book--Why I Decided to Read The Invisible Bridge

There’s that weird time after a book comes out where many folks start to lose interest. The publicists have moved on, the reviews that come out are considered “late”, and I’m thinking it’s too late to read something and start recommending it, unless I am preparing for the paperback release.

But the beauty of a store like ours is that we can do whatever we want. If a customer hasn’t heard of it, or better yet, heard of it, thought about buying it, but didn’t get confirmation #3 that this was the next book to read, then maybe we can make a difference.

When Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge came out, Jason read it and made a big pitch for the book. He had loved How to Breathe Underwater, her collection of short stories. As is Jason’s preference, it was a big fat book, 600 pages. But that’s not my wont—could I handle another doorstopper? Were 500 plus pages going to be my new norm?

Based on Jason’s rec (if he's this passionate about a book, and it's not speculative, I'm interested), plus some really great reviews, I started handselling copies of the book without reading it, including one at another bookstore.
But then our pal Tracy, who told us up front that she liked buying cards, gifts, and journals from us, but wasn’t going to buy books because she was a library user, yes sir, came into buy a copy.

“It was so good that I needed a copy for my library.” Then there was a little hugging the body action, as in "that good, that good."
600 pages or not, it was time to read this thing.

It’s the story of Andras Lévi, a Hungarian Jew whose dream to go to architecture school comes true, in Paris, no less. His older brother Tibor longs to go to medical school; his younger brother Mátyás just wants to dance. You know what’s going to happen, the special tragedy that was Hungary in World War II. Orringer builds up her characters, creates such empathy, such hopes, that my heart started breaking on page two. And since Andras’ dad was known as Lucky Béla, the family sticky excapes from sticky scrapes give you some hope—maybe, just maybe, things will be ok.

I started reading the book and added it to my reading list, and found folks responding to emails. “Oh, I can’t wait to read that.” “I loved that book and I’m not even the agent!” and other comments became common. What a wonderful book, worth the investment of every last one of the 600 pages. To my thinking, it was a bit Tolstoy-ish, which I could actually say because I read War and Peace less than ten years ago. Such clean, classic writing. Just beautiful.

Here’s Green Apple’s commercial for The Invisible Bridge, which was their June book of the month!

Back to that speculative thing. For some reason, I find it fascinating that Orringer's book appeals to folks who are well versed in SF. And not just Jason (hardly a ghettoized reader, he's all over the place); here's a review from Fantasy Book Critic's blog.

By the way, I’ve learned to pronounce Andras because we have a customer with that name, who, in fact, is a Hungarian translator. It’s “sh” for the “s”, if you’re curious, with the accent on the second syllable. I didn’t know this previously.

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