The Shoebox Bible (2006) by Alan Bradley is a gem. It is funny and touching, and difficult to locate!
Bradley, a Canadian writer, is the author of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; one of my favorite books of 2009. I stumbled across an advanced reader’s copy and probably only picked it up because of the title. It is a wonderful story and recently I was lucky enough to have a co-worker hand me an advanced copy of the second book of the series, The Weed That Binds the Hangman’s Bag (2010), which will be out in March. I liked it even more.
So, while Googling the author, I found he had written a memoir called The Shoebox Bible. EVPL did not have a copy. All the on-line booksellers and used books sources wanted around $150 for a copy and the Library was unable to find a copy to purchase for the publisher’s price. I turned to our wonderful Inter-Library Loan department; they could only locate a handful of copies in the United States (I think only 9!) and they set out to find a library willing to loan the book to me. In the meantime I had an email exchange with the author, he told me that pretty much any Canadian library would have it and my best bet would be inter-library loan. Well, EVPL ILL came through for me; they found a copy at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I had to pay a fee to the University, but by now – I had to read it!
Bradley’s father “runs away from home” during World War II, deserting his mother, two sisters, and Bradley – who is less the two years old. The family only sees the father one more time, when he briefly returns to tell his wife that he has found another life on the other side of the country in Vancouver and he won’t be back. The Shoebox Bible is literally a shoebox that Bradley finds as a child, hidden under the floor boards of his Mother’s bedroom. Inside the shoebox are scraps of paper on which his mother has written bits of scripture and verse that seems to represent her feelings and experiences throughout her life. Bradley never tells his mother that he has found the shoebox and knows its contents. Decades later, while his elderly mother lays dying, he finds the shoebox again and cannot bear to open it. When he finally does, he discovers that his mother has never stopped adding to The Shoebox Bible. He discovers that while she has never heard from her husband since the day he walked away, she has never stopped loving him and hoping for his return.
This small book is big on emotion and impact. It is funny and touching.
Because it is so hard to find this book, it is doubtful many will read it, but EVPL customers should know what a great service is available from the Inter-Library Loan department. If you can’t find it on the Library’s shelves, ask these women and they won’t give up the search until all rocks are turned over. While I had to pay a fee to the University, you can make up to 10 requests a month without incurring even a minimal fee from EVPL.