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Devils in the Sugar Shop by Timothy Schaffert {Excerpt}

Devils in the Sugar Shop by Timothy Schaffert {Excerpt}

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Published by UnbridledBooks
A failed erotic novelist; a hostess of prim sex-toy parties; an artist and a bookshop owner pursued by a demented if harmless stalker; wives, lovers, twin sisters, daughters—all members of the artsy crowd in Omaha, try to hold their families, friendships and personal lives together as they face damaged and broken marriages, and mid-life crises during one whirlwind day that may only be saved by their own children, a timely fire, and a return to their senses.

A failed erotic novelist; a hostess of prim sex-toy parties; an artist and a bookshop owner pursued by a demented if harmless stalker; wives, lovers, twin sisters, daughters—all members of the artsy crowd in Omaha, try to hold their families, friendships and personal lives together as they face damaged and broken marriages, and mid-life crises during one whirlwind day that may only be saved by their own children, a timely fire, and a return to their senses.

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Published by: UnbridledBooks on Jun 09, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercialISBN:9781936071166

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11/04/2014

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9781936071166

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 Ashley, Deedee & Viv 
 
 Ashley Allyson, the failed erotic novelist, stood in Mermaids Singing,Used & Rare, with an armful of pink, freckled lilies, the stems wrappedin tissue, bought from the corner florist in the Old Market. Ashleyremembered her mother calling that breed of lily a naked lady becauseits many leaves dropped off as it bloomed.Despite the falling temperatures outside, and despite wearing onlyher husband’s elbow-patch tweed jacket over her nearly threadbareConcrete Blonde concert T-shirt, Ashley felt faint from the heat of thebookstore. But she couldn’t bring herself to leave just yet.For weeks and weeks, possibly months and months, a copy of  Ashley’s first novel had sat on a shelf in the fiction section of MermaidsSinging, unsold even with the low, low price of $3.95 penciled into theupper-right corner of the title page. Now Ashley saw that the book wasfinally, blessedly gone.Whenever she was in the store and no one was looking, Ashleywould take the novel down from the shelf. Just an inch or two too petite,she’d have to step up on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, reach high,and crook her finger into the bottom of the spine to tug the book fromwhere it was stuck in between the humid magic of Isabel Allende andJorge Amado. She would dust off its dust jacket with her sleeve, becharmed again by the Alex Katz painting reproduced on it. She wouldslip off the jacket and run her thumb over the initials of her nameembossed in the cloth of the cover, and read again “A Note About theType” on the last page (“This book was set in Mrs. PickeringNeoclassical, a typeface based on an alphabet created by a children’sbook author in 1848 . . .”). Overlooking all the weaknesses of the novelitself, Ashley could still become mesmerized by the book’s physicalbeauty, right down to the elegant stitching of its pages to the binding, allin pink thread.Though it was early February, when Omaha stayed gray, with muddy,sooty snow melting and refreezing in the gutters, Ashley felt uplifted.Someone, against all possible odds, had bought her abandoned littlebook. And maybe this someone would see the novel’s qualities, find itsheart, and fall in love with its cast of fragile creatures.
 
 
Feeling generous, Ashley stepped over to browse the shop’sselection of rare books. She decided she’d buy her husband a priceyValentine’s gift, the signed copy of 
The Moviegoer 
, perhaps, or the
Peter Max Paper Airplane Book 
, its pages meant to be torn out andfolded, with trippy statements of love and peace across Popsicle-colored wings.But as she ran her finger along the front of the cabinet, she becamesad at the possibility of this sentimental gesture losing its every bit of romance in the chill of their apartment. Something was wrong in her marriage, and that something weighted every exchange and pleasantryand informed every sharp tone. After nineteen years of raising a familytogether, she and Troy had fallen out of touch in their own home, lostamong their own things. Ashley and Troy had married at the very beginning of their adult lives,so everything they owned belonged completely to the both of them. If their marriage ever ended, they’d have to divide down an impossiblemiddle, determining whether something was somehow more his thanhers, or more hers than his. This book she might buy, for example: itwould be Troy’s gift, but it was Ashley’s thought that counted, wasn’t it?The book would represent this spontaneous Saturday-morning side tripinto Mermaids Singing, these lilies, the snow falling lightly outside, her enthusiasm that turned to melancholy.If divorce loomed, they’d have to decide who got the circa-1950sFrank Lloyd Wright cocktail table they’d bought while antiquing inMadison County on a romantic weekend touring the historic bridges, or the French poster for 
 Annie Hall 
that had hung on the bedroom door of their first apartment, or the clear broken horn from a crystal unicorn thattheir daughter, Peyton, had used as a stage prop in her high school’sproduction of 
The Glass Menagerie
, a tiny spiraled piece of glass she’dpresented to her father as he’d handed a bouquet of blue roses up toher from the orchestra pit during the curtain call and the standingovation. Such a sweet moment.The grandfather clock in the corner of the bookstore chimed eleventimes with effort, its squeaky gears and workings about to give. Ashleyhad to run. She taught a Saturday-afternoon writing class, and later thatevening she was hosting a girls-only shindig, which was the reasonshe’d ventured out at all, for flowers, a peek of spring, this miserable icymorning.

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Publishers Weekly reviewed this
The Old Market section of Omaha serves as the bohemian center of Schaffert's diverting third novel. Ashley Allyson teaches erotic writing workshops, but doesn't realize that her husband, Troy (who edits an alternative weekly, The Omaha Street), is cheating on her with her student, Peach. Peach is one the two 20-something identical twins who run the local bookstore, Mermaids Singing; the other, Plum, has a yen for Tucker, a tallish tattooed dwarf photographer who photographs his impressive genitals. Ashley's neighbor and friend Deedee Millwood operates a franchise of the titular "Sweet Shop," a sort of sex-based Tupperware party where she hawks racy goods and advises sexually forlorn suburbanites. Deedee's teenage daughter, Naomi, can't stand Deedee's confessions about her sex life, and has her own crush on gay teen Lee-son of Ashley and Troy. Another friend and neighbor, African-American visual artist Viv Dailey, has been the victim of an increasingly active art stalker. Over the course of one improbably packed February evening, a missent e-mail between Peach and Troy brings everyone together. Schaffert (The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God) walks an uneasy tightrope between the amusingly sexy and the scabrous. The stalker's eventual characterization is a mean-spirited misstep, but Schaffert's bohemian Omaha is consistently surprising and vibrant. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

2007-02-12, Publishers Weekly
1 hundred reads

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