This month's read is a dark fairytale set in a magical bookstore... It's The Grimoire of Kensington Market by Lauren B. Davis! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Lauren and ask the lingering questions that remained after finishing this dazzling novel.
I loved The Grimoire of Kensington Market, and how the other worldliness of it built subtly. Does every reader have the dream of owning a magical bookstore? I certainly do! Do you think it's true in life that we find the books and stories that we need and are meant to?
I’m delighted to hear you enjoyed it. And yes, the bookstore!! I can’t tell you how many people have sent me photos or paintings of a bookstore, saying the images are precisely how they imagine The Grimoire. I love that, especially since each one is different. SEND ME MORE!
Do I believe we find the books and stories we’re meant to? I do, and those are the books we’ll never forget, but perhaps we have to read a great number of books to find those gifts!
It's admirable and also so troubling to watch Maggie follow her brother into the forest. I think one of the hardest things about loving people is finding that we cannot always help them. Do you think it's possible to save other people without losing ourselves?
It’s dangerous. And I’m not sure it’s possible, frankly. Crazy is contagious, and addiction is a form of mental illness. I would never recommend anyone in recovery go alone into the places where they once used, not even to try and save someone. I have gone on sobriety calls to help someone who’s reached out, but never, ever alone. Thank God Maggie had Badger. We all need a Badger.
It is hard to watch people we love doing things we know will harm them. I know only too well. I lost both my brothers to suicide as a result of addiction. This book was written as a way to deal with those events. I tried writing it as a memoir, and then as realist fiction, but I couldn’t. It didn’t feel safe for me, emotionally. It was only when I found the fairytale structure that I was able to write it.
What is it that Maggie had in her that enabled her to break free from Srebrenka and the Silver World?
My experience with addiction is that the addict ultimately saves themselves if they’re saved at all. They are the one who makes the decision. Sometimes, when something dreadful has happened as a result of addiction, there’s a moment of clarity, in which the addict understands that if they don’t stop, they’ll die, end up in a mental institution or prison. I suspect for Maggie is was a combination of these. She’s a survivor. Ultimately, she chooses life.
We know all great writers are readers. Can you please share with us who some of your favourite authors are?
I’ll try, but every time I answer this question, I leave out authors I love and curse myself days later. I love Edward St. Aubyn, James Baldwin, Jane Gardam, Colum McCann, Penelope Lively, Margaret Laurence, Richard Wright, Linda Hogan, Morley Callaghan, Louise Erdrich, Ursula Le Guin, Gabrielle Roy, Colm Toibin, Barry O’Callaghan, Willa Cather, Barbara Pym, William Wall, Sandra Cisneros…. Aaaarggghhh.. Stop me.
Why do you think reading and storytelling is so special?
Ah, what can I say that hasn’t been said before? Because it enlarges our understanding of the world, and the people with whom we share it. Because it develops empathy. Because reading and stories are angels to wrestle with, a way of discovering what we agree with, what we disagree with, what we believe, what matters to us. Because books are a universe and a dream and an adventure, right in our hands. Because, as Confucius said, “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” And of course, as Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Snort.