June 19, 2010

True Story in a Bookstore

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , , at 3:46 pm by Tamara

We get all sorts of strange requests at the bookstore I work at, people who saw a book a year ago on the shelf by the window and can’t remember its title or author or what it was about…and want us to find it for them.  Most of the time they’re nice, and it’s a rewarding treasure hunt if we can semi-miraculously find what they’re talking about.  One particular story stands out to me, though.

Right before Christmas I asked a 40-something year old man in a business suit if I could help him find anything.  He rubbed a hand on the back of his neck and hesitated for a second before saying,

“Well, I have kind of a weird request.  I’m looking for a book, and I don’t remember the title of it.  My mom just passed away, and she was reading it.”

I told him I was so sorry, he thanked me and offered a few more details about the book.  “I think the author was a man; it had a picture of a man on the back, and the cover was blue.  I think it was a New York Times Bestseller.”

That was enough information for me to know where to start, so I walked him over to a shelf and picked up a Nicholas Sparks book with a misty blue cover.

“This one, maybe?”

“Oh my goodness,” he said softly, reaching for it.  “That’s it.  She was reading it when she passed away.  I wanted to give a copy to each of my siblings.”

It was then that the title of the book hit me and I couldn’t stop a soft exclamation of “Oh!”  He looked at me as I covered my mouth, not wanting to state the obvious poignancy.  I’d never read the book and had no idea what it was about, but it seemed a surreal book to be reading during your last few days with your family.  He still had a confused look, and at last I managed, “The title….”

He looked down at the book again, and realization dawned.  He breathed a little laugh and shook his head.  “Wow.  That didn’t even occur to me.”   He was quiet for a minute, smiling a soft, sad smile.  “Thank you so much,” he told me.  “This means a lot.  I can’t believe we found it.”

I smiled, told him I was so glad to help, that my husband’s grandmother had just passed away and we were grieving too.   He smiled back and thanked me again, told me again how much it meant, and walked away with five copies in his arms: one for each sibling, a small memento of their mother and her last days.

The book was called The Last Song.



  1. souldipper said,

    What a well written piece, Tamara. Thank you for such a sensitive and delightful portrait of a loving son. Gratefully, from a Hospice Companion – Amy

  2. Tamara said,

    Thanks, Amy. I thought it was such a tender, beautiful moment. It’s the little things that seem to matter, especially in grief and remembering. His love for his mother was obvious, and you could tell that, whoever she was, she had made a deep impact on him and probably many others. I felt blessed to get to be involved in the story in the tiniest way!

  3. Mom said,

    I love your true story. I don’t think it was serendipitous that you were able to help someone who was grieving. But it must been gratifying to so quickly find what he was looking for! You probably know this by now, but the book is, in fact the story of a father who is dying and the reconciliation he finds with his daughter before he dies.

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