Reading Nashville: Bowling Avenue & Parnassus Books
by Ann Shayne
Paperback, 268 pages
I initially heard of this book and added it to my to read list because I have followed Ann’s writing over at Mason Dixon Knitting for years. I was delighted (yet not too surprised) to discover it was set in Nashville. At the time it was a city I had not yet visited but was curious about since my friend had moved there a few years ago.
I have been trying to watch the book budget, so I didn’t purchase it right away. My friend’s wedding plans solidified and I knew we would be in Nashville this summer. I then decided to try to purchase the book at Parnassus Books while we were in town. The idea of supporting a local author and a local independent bookstore excited me.
How to balance a book review and a book store review? I think these two go hand-in-hand. What makes Ann’s debut novel one that kept me turning pages long past my bedtime is her attention to the whole story. Not only do we meet characters we’d love to join for pancakes, but we also meet those we’d not hesitate to volunteer with and help out the community when disaster strikes. What makes Parnassus Books a wonderful store is the feeling I received from the short time I spent there. It’s a bookstore I definitely look forward to visiting again.Despite a small footprint and an unassuming storefront (we almost missed it), the space is clean, bright, and well organized. Walking in I easily found both recent publications and local authors, without feeling that they smacked me in the face. My litmus test for a bookstore is a quick evaluation of both the crafts and children sections. I was pleasantly surprised by the crafts selection and blown away by the breadth of the children’s books available. Any bookstore that has Mrs Piggle-Wiggle* by Betty MacDonald on the shelf is a store that I am very impressed with.
Back to Bowling Avenue, it has been a few weeks since I finished this book and I’m still thinking about the challenges the characters faced and Nashville. I’ve thought a good deal about the fraught-filled child-parent relationship, self-worth, and medical decisions. I’ve thought about the strength of relationships both in family and in neighborhood, and about what causes a city to be vibrant or isolate itself to stagnation and abandoned storefronts. To me, this is a sign that the author, as story teller, has done her job. Ann brought a world to life and I’m still wondering about it.
* Note: I was horrified to discover upon researching this post that my favourite childhood book series was adapted for TV. Don’t go there. You will probably ruin a very marvelous thing.