cover image The Story People

The Story People

Heather Kaufmann. Concordia, $12.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7586-5625-4

In an otherworldly space, two children have a secret room where they bond over their love of stories and interact with their imaginary friends, the Story People, who eat the tales they recite in order to stay alive. Outside of this magical setup but somehow nearby is Palermo’s bookstore in New Holden, Ind., owned by single and lonely Ben Palermo. In the small town, Ben is a hot commodity, and Mrs. Baumgartner, Mrs. Gardner, and Mrs. Frank have elaborate plans to fix Ben up with someone. Ben goes along with their schemes but never has his heart captured by the many suitors they present. Enter Rosemary Berg, in town to care for her grandmother. Rosemary is a children’s book illustrator who loved Palermo’s as a child and runs into Ben during a sale at the local church. As the story progresses, chapters end with italicized sections returning to the secret room and the Story People. Kaufmann’s winsome main narrative following Ben is full of misunderstandings, high jinks, and lonely people who find one another despite the many obstacles that stand in the way. The sections about the Story People, however brief, bring a nice undercurrent concerning the state of reading and the power of the imagination. Readers will enjoy this sweet tale of a unique bookstore and the patrons that love it, but some might wish for less of the formidable Mrs. Gardner and the quest to get Ben hitched. (Nov.)