Love, Death & Rare Books by Robert Hellenga

Love, Death & Rare Books

Love, Death & Rare Books by Robert Hellenga
English | 2020 | Fantasy | ePUB | 4.9 MB

Chas. Johnson & Sons, a rare bookstore in Chicago’s Hyde Park, has been in Gabe Johnson’s family for generations. It’s where he learned to love Romantic poetry, and where he found a romance of his own with Olivia. Geared toward a colorful community of serious collectors, the shop has survived competition from big chains, and even a violent attack for stocking The Satanic Verses. But by the time Gabe takes over, Olivia is gone, and the world of books has changed. Internet sellers and gentrifying rents force him to close.

Down but not out, Gabe decides to reopen on the shores of Lake Michigan. Secretly, he hopes this new beginning will also be a return into Olivia’s arms. But just as he finds her again, Gabe faces yet another threat to the store—and everything else he holds most dear.

Mi trovo un po’ in difficoltà, she’d said to me the last time she walked me to school. I want to tell Dad, but I think that he’s in a little difficulty too, and I don’t want to make things worse.

A few minutes later, as we turn onto Blackstone, Dad says, “She wants to live life, not read about it.”

Dad doesn’t show me the letter, but I have one of my own waiting in the mailbox when we get home. Dad goes to his room, and I go to mine. We both need to be alone. She’s sorry, she says in her letter, molto spiacente—she loves me and she hopes I will forgive her. I crumple up the letter till it’s the size of a Ping-Pong ball and throw it into the wastebasket. I get my bike out of the garage and pedal down Fifty-Seventh Street, under Lake Shore Drive, and out to the Point, and sit on the big rocks and throw stones into the lake until I can’t see them hit the water anymore.

When I get back home, Dad and Grandpa Chaz have already eaten. Dad offers to fry me a hamburger, but I’m not hungry.

“What the hell is the matter with that woman?” Grandpa Chaz says, setting his glass of bourbon on the kitchen table and struggling to get out of his chair. He’s a little unsteady. “You buy her a goddamn fur coat,” he says, “and the next thing you know, she leaves us high and dry.”

In August, Dad and Grandpa Chaz and I go to the Loft in St. Anne for three weeks and I take sailing lessons. In September, I start seventh grade at the Lab School—Latin, earth science, American history, English, algebra. After school, I go straight to the shop and take Punch for a walk. Amos, our third-floor manager, takes him out at noon, but he spends most of the day in Dad’s office. I do my homework at the library table on the second floor. At six o’clock or so, Dad and Grandpa Chaz and I walk home with Punch. I always listen for Mamma’s voice as we enter the empty house, and Punch runs through all fifteen rooms looking for her.

On Christmas Eve, Dad and I go to the four o’clock service in Rockefeller Chapel, and afterward we skate on the Midway. It feels good to glide with him on the ice as it gets dark, and then sit together in the warming house.

Does he expect something to happen? Does he think, or hope, as I do, that Mamma might come back for Christmas? They’ve been divorced since Thanksgiving in the United States, but Dad says he and Mamma are probably still married in Italy, because Italy won’t recognize an American divorce.

I had swallowed my anger and answered Mamma’s letter—which I’d retrieved from the wastebasket—begging her to come home. Dad and I don’t talk about the possibility. We’re afraid to jinx it.

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