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 . . .
Enchanting and evocative, Tabitha Bird’s The Emporium of Imagination is a heartwarming story about confronting past mistakes, missed conversations, and lost loved ones. Set over a period of 21 days, we glimpse into a magical world of possibility, within the four walls of an impossible store.
Set in the rural town of Boonah, Queensland, we meet Earlatidge Hubert Umbray as he’s setting up the new Emporium store one evening. He’s the custodian of the magical shop, which among other wonderful things, allows visitors to receive phone calls from family and friends who are either deceased or astray. It allows visitors to confront and overcome long-held secrets and anxieties.
As we soon learn, Earlatidge’s time as custodian is almost over, and he must find someone new to take over his work.
“I want to scream that word all over the house. Yell it at the walls that are scuffed up because he let us play soccer in the hallway. Yell it in the backyard where we used to wrestle and where he rescued Nipper from the top of the water tank. Yell it in his empty bedroom…”
A sweet tale with a gorgeous cast of characters. We meet three boys grappling with the recent death of their father, and their exhausted grandmother who is desperately trying to raise these boys the best she can. We meet a woman who has recently lost a close friend and is about to lose her beloved grandmother, and we come to understand Earlatidge’s story and how — through great loss — he came to be custodian of the Emporium store.
Anyone who has lost someone, or lost touch with someone, will be able to relate to this story. It’s beautiful and moving, but it’s also quite heartbreaking. We meet characters when they’re at their lowest point — they’re in desperate need of some guidance and direction, some wise words. The store offers them that.
“The key. A cantankerous key. Over the years, it has appeared in ordinary places like pockets, under doormats, in letterboxes and inside his shoe. But it has also hidden in more unusual places like the bottom of a maple syrup bottle in Canada or inside a pint of Guinness. Until the key makes an appearance, Earlatidge is always careful not to gulp his drinks.”
The Emporium of Imagination is about grasping the life you have left, and pursuing what you really want. It’s about accepting the past is in the past and moving on, but acknowledging the importance and necessity of grieving. It’s about the comfort you can find in those around you. With a little magic and imagination, you’ll get the answers you seek.
This book is reminiscent of children’s fairytales — whimsical, hopeful and enchanting. It’s a novel that will wrap you up and engage you until you’ve read the final page. Tabitha’s writing is descriptive and full of beautiful prose and general wonderment.
“Earlatidge is right about the note. No matter what I do with the phone invitation, it keeps coming back like a determined stray animal. I find it in my jeans pocket, on my bedside table and under the blankets. It even blocks the water coming out of my tap as I’m trying to brush my teeth. Reluctantly, I keep it.”
An enduring tale alive with possibilities, The Emporium of Imagination is recommended for fans of magical realism, family saga and literary novels. Readership skews female, 30+
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Emporium of Imagination
Penguin Random House Book Publishers