BOOK CLUB: The Emporium of Imagination

The Emporium of Imagination is the second published novel by award winning author Tabitha Bird.  Having loved her first book A Lifetime of Impossible Days, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of The Emporium, while at the same time feeling that qualm of fear wondering if her second book would be as good as her first. I needn’t have worried; this book is fabulous!

Set in Bird’s own hometown of Boonah in Queensland this novel deals, in a sometimes sad, sometimes humorous, always respectful, and definitely magical way with an emotion all of us have experienced, yet many deny—grief.

Grief comes in many forms, the death of a loved one, or a pet, the loss of a dream that may have been, harsh words said and unable to be taken back, guilt for actions taken, or opportunities missed. How many of us would like that chance to speak to our loved one just one more time, to say the words we wished we’d said, or just to tell them one more time what they meant to us. How many of us long to hear our loved one tell us they loved us; how sorry they are for decisions made that impacted our lives.

The Emporium of Imagination is a phantasmagorical shop that appears overnight in Boonah in February 2021, as it has been appearing in other towns all over the world for at least the last 10 years. Its outward appearance is never the same, but the process never varies, the custodian arrives at a place, the position for the shop becomes clear, the shop appears, the custodian must find ‘the shopkeeper’—the only person who will be able to open the shop—the key appears, the shop is opened, people with unresolved grief find notes in their pockets telling them of a phone call they are to receive, and to come to the Emporium to receive it.

The shop itself is full of amazing things, ladybirds that turn into lollipops when you catch them, cake mixes to ease your mental pain, shoes labelled ‘walk a mile in my shoes’ that when you try them on literally take you to places and times the shoes experienced, and telephones, all sorts of telephones, from pull along toy ones, to ornate antique phones, to rotary phones to iPhones. And for those with a note in their pocket, when their phone rings there will be no doubt the call is for them.

But this time something is different, the custodian Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, can’t sense the shopkeeper, or find the key to open the shop, and he’s only got 21 days left, and bits of him keep disappearing, and that darned ginger cat (why would anyone call a cat Mr Pickled Onions?) still keeps hanging around even though he really doesn’t like cats!

From the trauma of the tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, to abandonment, love, and loss in Boonah this book will hold you with wonder, delight, tears, and laughter as you let your imagination run wild with ‘what if…?’

For those who follow Tabitha Ann Bird on Facebook, and have watched the genesis of this amazing book, there will be things that you recognise, suggestions from followers (the door colour), things about the Emporium, things that Tabitha has written about in her posts from real life.  For those who don’t follow Tabitha on Facebook (if you like her work she’s a fun author to follow) the book will still be a brilliant read.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House Australia, and Beauty and Lace Book Club for the opportunity to read and review The Emporium of Imagination.

Highly recommended for lovers of magical realism, and an all-round great read. 5 stars.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

ISBN: 9781760895914 / Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia

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