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The Emporium of Imagination Paperback – 30 March 2021
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Top reviews from Australia
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“I stand behind my door in my bedroom and try not to hear all the voices downstairs. Pulling at my ears, I try to focus on something else. It doesn’t work. I can still hear people thinking.
‘It’s all too loud,’ I yell out the window at the birds. At the world. At the thoughts in my head that are like bumps that turn purple then black. Hearing all the sad things is punishment for what I did.”
When bad things happen in a family, kids often think it’s their fault, and Enoch is convinced that he could have, should have stopped something from happening. He’s ten years old, the middle brother of three boys. He is also unlucky enough to hear everyone’s sad thoughts, which nobody should have to bear.
Ann is a single mother of one little boy, and she seems to be suffering for something she actually did do.
“As I tighten myself into a ball on the bed, I try to be angry about what I did. Try to visualise the shape of that anger. The texture. Would it be coarse
. . .
There’s no fabric, or matter to lay my fingers on. There’s no substance to it because I’m not angry. I would do it all again.”
The main character is a lovely fellow called Earlatidge Hubert Umbray. It wasn’t his real name, but it was one his son made up as the perfect name for a magician. Because Earlatidge has accidentally become something of a magician, he decided to adopt it.
He comes to Boonah, accompanied by a cat who has a knack of finding special ‘gifts’ for people who need them. Along with the appearance of the cat is a book titled ‘The Owner’s Guide to Grieving’ , and I have to say, I think it’s an interesting idea. People write whatever they want in it and sign their names, or not. Some hate it and try to get rid of it, but it has a way of turning up when needed.
Entries read like letters to someone or diary entries, and people are surprisingly open with what they share. Friends and neighbours learn about each other while we look for puzzle pieces to figure out what's going on.
Earlatidge arrives with a magic shop that is stocked with things that help people deal with their grief and set their minds and hearts at rest. He talks to Ann, who is struggling and refuses to admit her problems to anyone.
“‘Grief isn’t a problem per se. Not everything that hurts us means that there is something wrong. You don’t need an antidote for grief.’
‘I don’t?” Ann says.
‘No!’ His face lights up as if he’s discovered electricity. ‘Grief means we have loved. Would you really want to take away feelings of love?’”
Of course not. But you might have regrets. That’s where the Emporium of Imagination comes into its own. Earlatidge is the custodian of the shop, but he needs to locate the new custodian before the whole system falls apart forever. You see, there are rules about how all of this works.
Mind you, Earlatidge has not dealt with his own guilt and regrets and he’s running out of time to do so. Things are not looking good for him.
This book is full of mystery and love and happiness and Bedtime Muffins, as made by Enoch’s dad for his peckish boys. The recipe is at the back of the book, as is a wonderful author’s note about what prompted her to write this.
It’s a slow story that meanders back into memories and what might have been and then moves forward to what is and what might be. I enjoy these worlds the author creates. Her first book, A Lifetime of Impossible Days, is one of my favourites, and now I wish we really could have an Emporium of Imagination drop into town. Sigh . . .
I'm looking forward to her next one!
The Emporium of Imagination is in need of a new custodian. Earlatidge Hubert Umbray has been looking after it for 10 years, but his time is coming to an end and needs to find a successor. His search brings him to the small town of Boonah in Queensland, where this store is going to be a godsend. Ann has returned to look after her dying Nannie with her young son. 10 year old Enoch is devastated at the death of his father and blames himself. This town needs the Emporium and it needs them.
Beautifully written with characters that you will fall in love with, The Emporium is an absolute treasure. Keep the tissues close, you will feel all the feels reading this book and you will love it. I was sad when it was all over to be honest, I could have lived in the world for a lot longer.
I could not love it more.
A great read.
I’m in awe of Tabitha’s ability to bring magic, wonder and heart-warming characters to life in the humble country Queensland town of Boonah. She expertly weaves the fantastic with themes of grief and loss, while somehow still offering hope.
There are so many things to love about this book but my favourite part above all is ten-year-old Enoch, and his brothers, who are mourning the loss of their father. Seeing the world through their eyes and the many different types of “hugs” makes their grief heart-breakingly real, while offering a light and endearing touch. You will laugh, you will cry and you will do it all over again – but it’s 100% worth it.
Top reviews from other countries
Three characters are at the heart of this story, but really there are four. The Emporium itself is at the heart of this tale. It is a magical shop that travels to where it is most needed and stays for as long as it takes for a town to experience its magic and be healed. Earlatidge is the custodian and he travels with the Emporium. He is linked to the Emporium in more ways than are immediately obvious. He is the one to find the Shopkeeper and the Key to open the shop and bring magic to each new town. Ann and Enoch are both keeping secrets… secrets that are tearing them apart from the inside out. Earlatidge discovers a shocking truth and terrible things are starting to happen to the Emporium. Earlatidge must hurry to find the Shopkeeper and the new custodian quickly or the Emporium’s magic will be lost. Unless they can all come to terms with their heartbreaking grief, the magic will be lost forever.
Grief comes in many forms. Grief over the loss of loved ones, grief over lost love, grief over what we give up to grow up and grief over lost dreams. Grief becomes regret becomes a pain that will never heal. The magic and whimsy and love experienced as children slips away as we grow up and grow old. We forget. The Emporium is a magical place where you are gifted a chance for a final conversation with those you have lost. It is also a chance to remember what dreams you may have forgotten that you once had and provides a little spark of magic (in food, clothing, pictures and hobbies) that can bring those dreams back to life. Everyone in this novel, everyone in life, has a story to tell. A story they are hiding from. Everyone has a secret they are keeping that is tearing them apart, have loved ones they have lost, and are experiencing unimaginable pain in dealing with untold regrets. The Emporium brings all of this grief out into the light of day to be seen and recognized and accepted. Grief is not undone but is given a chance to heal.
I wish the Emporium was a real place. In my dreams perhaps it is. This book will catch you right in the feels and emotions you thought dead and buried will resurface to be reviewed in the light of this tale. Beware – the Emporium is a magical place and visiting will change your life.