Connections between customers and connections between those customers and the books they were looking for or the books they found. And sometimes a connection between the customer, the book and me.
A customer once asked me to read a memoir of his brother that he had self-published. He wasn’t trying to sell the book to the store; he just wanted me to read it and tell him what I thought.
When he returned the following week, I told him I thought the book was good, very good. I said, “Gene, you should be a writer.” Mr. Luetkemeyer chuckled and said, “Maybe, someday.”
And now, almost 14 years later, I am recommending E. A. Luetkemeyer’s fourth book, “My Year at The Good Bean Café.” Connection!
A circuitous path
The “my” of the book’s title is a man named Adrian. He gives up a successful job in San Francisco, returns to college for an MFA and then accepts a position as a teacher in a Southern Oregon community college. Adrian falls in love with Jacksonville, Ore., a small, National Historical Landmark less than a 20-minute drive to the community college. His life has taken a very circuitous path to Jacksonville.
The “café” of the title is where Adrian goes for his morning coffee, sitting at his favorite table watching the customers come and go and waiting for his almost-imaginary muse Miranda. It is the place where Adrian commits to writing a novel made up of one story each month, with characters real and not quite real.
Like him, each character has their own tale of how they came to be a part of Jacksonville. Each tale has connections to events found in the stories of the tellers and even the stories to be told.
The connections will astound you. The “you” is Adrian’s made-up reader named Sam addressed throughout the story.
It is those connections and their effects on his characters that interests Adrian the most. It is Adrian’s book, but Luetkemeyer never lets Adrian overshadow any of the characters introduced month by month.
How do we explain the unexplainable?
How many times in our lives have we met someone and found we have a connection to their story? A shared place of birth? An influential book of poetry? A favorite place of retreat? Déjà vu? Magical realism? How do we explain the unexplainable? How do these events affect our lives? Is Adrian’s own story touched by any of the connections? We won’t know that until the epilogue.
What I do know is this: Gene Luetkemeyer has written a novel that is a fascinating glimpse into how we may find ourselves not quite as singular as we think, and that alone is something worth thinking about. “My Year at The Good Bean Café” would be a great book club choice.
Visit Sunny Solomon’s website at bookinwithsunny.com for her latest recommendations or just to ‘talk books.’
Read more book reviews by Sunny Solomon here.
Sunny Solomon holds an MA in English/Creative Writing, San Francisco State University. She is a book reviewer for “The Clayton Pioneer” and her poetry and other writing has been published in literary journals, one chapbook, In the Company of Hope and the collection, Six Poets Sixty-six Poems. She was the happy manager of Bonanza Books, Clayton, CA and Clayton Books, Clayton, CA. She continues to moderate a thriving book club that survived the closure of the store from which it began. Sunny currently lives next to the Truckee in Reno, NV.