by Jennifer King from Edmonton, AB
Just a couple of years ago, Edmonton lost an important part of its culture. It was in April of 2008 that Laurie Greenwood shut the door to Volume II Books, one of Edmonton’s few independent bookstores. Situated in Edmonton’s High Street, it was home to young and old book lovers alike.
I grew up in the area and frequented the store as a child as much as I could. To get to the bookstore from my house, I had to walk along a busy street. As soon as I was old enough to do the walk by myself, the bookstore was the first place I walked to. I was fascinated by the flower garden on the side and the mural painted on the outside wall. More so, I was overcome with excitement to get to walk down the steep spiral staircase into the basement where the children’s books were located. As a child blissfully overwhelmed by color, I would spend hours down there looking at pictures and making up my own stories. I didn’t know then what an important part the bookstore would play in my own story.
When I got out of high school, I was a lost soul unsure of the next step. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to work at the bookstore. There is something endearing about holding a book in your hand; something satisfying. Isabelle Allende’s [Ay–en-daze] House of Spirits was the first book I sold. Eric Carle’s A Very Hungry Caterpillar was the last. That was 6 years later.
Life doesn’t always walk with you Stuart and I had to face challenges far greater than any recession could offer. The diagnosis of a chronic illness that would weaken my body, but, with time, strengthen my spirit, came during my bookstore days. Although I worked off and on for the next few years, the bookstore played an important part in the acceptance of my reality. The cold drafts and stained green carpets, although unpleasant to some, became a familiarity I still long for even two years after the signs were taken down. I knew that when I was too scared to face the people around me, I had thousands of friends willing to share their story without me having to respond. These friends were met within the pages.
Perhaps one of the most precious mementos of the bookstore were the doors. All throughout the store, there were doors with autographs on them. It was tradition that all authors who passed through the bookstore would sign the door. Once a door became full, a new one was added. I believe you took part in this tradition. I vaguely recall seeing your autograph.
Every person has a story to tell. It just so happens that the important chapters of my story happened while working at the bookstore. Laurie, the owner, had one last party for staff, book reps, and a few customers. At that party, there was a blank door and a fresh Sharpie. It was my turn to sign the door. A very fitting way to mark my story.