You know those stores that exist in an alternate reality, where you wander in and there's an impossibly old proprietor, and amid the dusty shelves in the back you find a crystal ball that really works/a monkey's paw that will curse you/a magical book especially for you?
These places sometimes exist in reality, is the thing. Or if not these places specifically, places that do the same thing. Like the truck stop on the highway to Delaware in 1980 (maybe somewhere on route 95?), where a Greyhound bus I was on stopped when I was 16. We riders wandered in at two in the morning, amid a haze of fluorescent lighting and bleary truckers, and there was a wire kiosk of paperbacks, on which there was ONE and only one copy of this book:
Oh my did I love this book when I was 16. It cost me just as much money as I had at the time (maybe $3.99?). My friend and I passed it back and forth between us, so we could both have access to it (that and Young Sinners, but that's another story). We read it over and over. And it seemed pretty clear to me at the time (and actually seems just as clear in retrospect) that the book was there for me and only me, that if someone had visited that truck stop 15 minutes before I got there it wouldn't have been there. It got beamed down as I entered the place, a flash of literary kismet.
You wouldn't think this sort of thing happened much at Barnes and Noble, would you? And yet….
Normally we go to the indie bookstores, which our neighborhood is lucky enough to have. But Chestnut had a $25 gift card, and so to Barnes and Noble we did go.
Once we got there, I went somewhere else, because for Chestnut to make a decision—not easy. It takes a long time, there is much vacillating. It was probably around 45 minutes before she came to get me, so we could think about whether The Fairies of the Forest (or something similar) was right, or should she consider Dear Dumb Diary, or or or…. And as we were talking it over, there, on the display shelf, was this:
"How about this?" I asked her. She picked it up. And that was it—she wanted it. Even though neither of us had heard of it before. Even though it cost $17 and she is the most frugal of book-buyers. She just knew it was the book for her. And she was right.
The crazy thing is, what was it doing on that shelf? It wasn't with a stack of others like it. It was published in 2010, for heaven's sake. But there it was, a sign of the literary powers that watch over us all, and every now and again bestow their favors.
The book is the story of a very smart 5th grade girl with cerebral palsy, and what it's like for her when she starts inclusion classes, where other people start to realize that within her drooling nonworking body is a sharp, funny, longing to connect mind. And it's not all positive, it's not all easy—but it's really good. And it was just right for Chestnut, for whom this girl lived.
Thank you, book gods.
I'm not the only person this happens to, right?