Shopgirl by Steve Martin

On a random trip to the second hand bookstore across the road, I picked up a copy of Steve Martin’s “Shopgirl”. I only paid $1 for it but I was, again, drawn to the cover and the size. It is small — a novella — but it powerful.

It is about Mirabella Buttersfield, a budding artist who works in the glove department at Neiman’s. Mirabella is a conflicted young woman, quite complex. She catches the eye of Ray Porter, an “older” gentleman of great wealth, also conflicted and complex.

They fall into a relationship — selfless for one and self-serving for the other. As the story unfolds, the characters grow in their emotions and understanding of those emotions and emerge far different individuals than they began.

The book is flawless — it flows smoothly from one relationship to another, it unpeels Mirabella’s conflicts like an onion, and you can actually feel the emotions as they are presented. It is easy to read, very straightforward and draws you in.

The book is comedic, also. How could it not be, given the author. Even if the reader was unaware that it was penned by Steve Martin, you can “hear” him in the narration as he has been heard in many movies. This book is very much the author.

As I read the book, my moods changed to mirror Mirabella’s. At the conclusion of the book I have to say I was tired, emotionally spent. I would say that as good as this book is, it isn’t for anyone who tends toward depression. It ends well, with a twist, but the process is a struggle in places. I have to mention that the book is rather graphic, also, so this wouldn’t be for a young person.

All in all, I enjoyed it even though it was sad, depressing and bittersweet. It ended well but I have to say that I felt a bit like Anne Sullivan with Helen Keller in the dining room scene, emotionally speaking.

I would recommend “Shopgirl”. It is short, a quick read, definitely holds one’s interest — just don’t read it on a gloomy day!

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