My Life in Bookstores by Emily Hendricks
I grew up in a bookstore.
No, that doesn’t mean that I was constantly in bookstores buying everything I could get my hands on … I mean, I literally grew up in a bookstore.
My grandparents started a small used bookstore in my hometown in the mid-1970s, a good decade before I was born. Eventually my father took it over after my grandfather’s death. That’s where I learned to read, where I learned to write, and where I learned invaluable lessons about family, friendship and life in general.
The first book I got there was a Golden Book. My grandfather tried to give it to me, but I insisted on paying for it. I gave him a dollar – all the money I had in my cute little purse over my shoulder – and insisted he put it in the drawer. He did, but somehow when I got home that dollar was back in my purse. He always was a sneaky man. He died unexpectedly that summer.
Through the next year, I had my life upended several times. My grandfather died, my parents got divorced, I lost the private nurses that I had been surrounded with since birth due to my health issues I was born with… Through it all, I had two constants: George Jones music and books.
In fifth grade, my teacher came up to me and asked me to show her what I was reading. I did – it was Danielle Steel’s Daddy. I had snagged it off one of our bookstore shelves. I remember her laughing with the other teachers in the room about how I was reading such an adult book; the next week I brought in My Brother Sam is Dead, and from their approval I discovered that that book was more age appropriate than anything Ms Steel had written.
The summer between sixth and seventh grade I had a life-changing operation, which took thirteen hours or so. It was exhausting and awful in a lot of ways, but it made me much more independent in a lot of ways. That summer, during my long recuperation, I’m pretty sure I read a hundred books. I was pretty physically inactive, wheelchair bound with tubes and wires and heaven knows what else. I could pretty much read and watch TV, that was it. So I read – my father and his staff kept me supplied in books.
In high school is when I found my favorite book, the one that cemented to me that I wanted to be a writer – David Baldacci’s Wish You Well. While it reads a lot like To Kill a Mockingbird, it has its own quirks and charms that made me fall in love with the story. The main character, Lou Cardinal, reminded me of myself – plucky and resilent – and I loved how it was a story with a young adult main character and narrator, but it wasn’t exactly YA. I own three copies of that book now and I read it multiple times a year.
I’ve worked at my family’s bookstore off and on since I was old enough to work, taking time off to go to college, travel and get married. Even when I wasn’t working at the store, I was reading. My husband is from Denmark, and I spent a great deal of time there in the two years before we got married, taking one suitcase full of books every time I went over, and making several trips to the English bookstore in Copenhagen during my stay there. I have this vivid memory of throwing Jodi Picoult’s House Rules against my now husband’s living room wall in the middle of Denmark because the book just *ended*, without an actual conclusion. I don’t have many rules about what I will or won’t read, but I absolutely abhor books that don’t have firm conclusions.
I now help out at the bookstore when I am needed, but I am currently focusing on building a freelance career and I’m working on a YA novel, so my time at the store is sometimes very limited, but ….
Hey, you want to know a secret?
Sometimes, after the store is closed, I let myself in there and run my hands over the spines of the books, breathe in the air, maybe find a book or two to take home with me whenever I leave. Books are my fuel. Reading is my comfort. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Emily Hendricks is a Missouri native with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Creative Writing. She was a two time president of the Missouri Writers Guild. She is currently a freelance writer and is working on a YA novel. You can reach her on Facebook at The View From Down Here (facebook.com/theviewfromdownhereblog).