Spence & Lila, by Bobbie Ann Mason

This short novel found me a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting family in Denver. Wandering around downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, my cousin and I went in a little, used bookstore, packed floor to ceiling. Out of all of those spines, I spotted this one. When I asked to buy it, the bookseller pointed out that this volume had been on the shelf for more than 20 years, so it really should have been priced higher - this was on the old pricing system. (I contend that when a book hasn’t moved from the shelf in more years than my grown-up cousin has been alive, that’s not cause for a mark-up.) I mean no slight to this book or its author, only that this particular tattered copy must have been waiting there for me. On Sunday morning, I cracked the cover to read for a little while and ended up devoting the day to Spence & Lila. This is the kind of quiet novel that makes you feel like you’re spending time in an honest-to-goodness reality with honest-to-goodness people. The the plot and place are wholly imagined, the heart of the book feels emotionally true, and the characters are just like me and not like me at all. I’ve stumbled onto a new favorite writer. I can’t imagine how I’ve never read Bobbie Ann Mason before and feel grateful that I get to read her other books now. In a time when I’m trying to clear out my bookshelves, Bobbie is gonna get plenty of space.