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The Emporium of Imagination

The Emporium of Imagination 1

by Tabitha Bird
Publication Date: 30/03/2021
5/5 Rating 1 Review

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RRP  $32.99

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A captivating novel of magical realism about a fantastical shop that brings comfort, peace and hope to those in need. You won't want to miss the opening of this shop!

From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People's Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.

Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.

But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store's long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying...

The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.

Like Enoch Rayne - a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret.

Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it's Enoch's father who dominates her thoughts - and regrets...

Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before - and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy...

Contemporary fiction
Publication Date:
Penguin Random House Australia
Country of origin:
Tabitha Bird

Tabitha Bird is a writer and poet who lives and works in the rural township of Boonah, Queensland. By day Tabitha may be found painting, working on her next book or with her husband, three beautiful boys and Chihuahua.

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1 Review

“A person looking for the impossible will find it. One who isn’t, cannot”

The Emporium Of Imagination is the second novel by Australian author, Tabitha Bird. One hot January night, a strange and wondrous shop arrives in the town of Boonah, where it takes up the vacant block between the jeweller and the real estate agency.

The shop is brought by its custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, choosing its place and building itself. The Emporium of Imagination is here, summoned to where it is needed, called by the grief and heartbreak it senses within the townspeople.

Ann, just recently returned to Boonah with irrepressible four-year-old Benny, peers into the shop window at the myriad of marvellous items on display, but the door is firmly closed, awaiting its shopkeeper, whom the shop’s marmalade cat will choose, and the door key, yet to be located. And anyway, Ann’s biggest concern is her ailing Nannie: she can’t be concerned with frivolities like this.

Meanwhile, at 43 Dandelion Road, ten-year-old Enoch Rayne is sorely missing his dad. But also feeling guilty, about the day Isaac died, and what he didn’t do. He, too, is fascinated by the Emporium and soon, adopted by the cat, which he names Pickled Onions. Hazel Rayne has her hands full with three motherless grandsons, acting out after the recent death of her beloved son.

Earlatidge scours the town for a shopkeeper and a key. He hears the town’s grief, heartache and sadness. Those who need them are handed notes promising telephone contact with someone with whom issues are unresolved, if they come to the Emporium. Many also find that The Owner’s Guide to Grieving appears nearby, inviting them to add their own words on coping. “We don’t need an antidote to grief. It reminds us that we’ve lived and loved.”

Grief, it seems, stems not only from death: ambitions abandoned, harsh words unretracted, inclinations denied, apologies delayed, guilt over inaction, impulsive deeds never forgiven, feelings unshared, lost jobs and career opportunities, chances never taken, secrets kept.

The Emporium finds its shopkeeper, the key materialises, and the town enters, fascinated by its floor of grass and flowers, its ladybirds and lollypops, the many items that arouse nostalgia, memories both sad and happy. Calls are received and lives are changed. “…when people came to the Emporium, they weren’t swallowed whole by their sadness. Instead, many found hope.” But not all is well with the Emporium…

Earlatidge is reminded, in a rather concerning way, of his limited term as custodian, soon to end, and reluctantly recalls the catastrophic event that led to his being chosen as custodian, ten years earlier in a Japanese town by an unconnected phone. And he begins to understand the terrible criterion required for the next custodian.

Bird’s second novel is easily as captivating as her first, if not moreso. She gives her readers a dose of magical realism that will have them wishing they, too, could enter the Emporium of Imagination and experience its delightful quirks and oddities.

Her characters are appealing for all their very human flaws, and she gives them plenty of wise words and insightful observations. Included are lovely little touches, like the charming illustrations that head chapters for each narrator and a delicious-sounding recipe for Bedtime Muffins. This is an enchanting read.

Contains Spoilers No
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