Reviews for Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap : A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book

Booklist Reviews 2012 October #1
Once the dream of every bibliophile, owning one's own bookstore means something different in these days of and e-readers. Keeping an independent bookstore thriving is problematic in even the biggest cities and best of economic times, and it's especially difficult in a rural community of 5,000 facing a major economic downturn. Yet none of those factors deterred Welch and her husband from impulsively buying a ramshackle Victorian mansion and filling it with thousands of used books. Nor did their lack of book trade knowledge or any type of local support stand in their way. Frugal, resourceful, cunning, and determined, they vowed to win over those who thought they'd never last. Having a pair of saucy cats and plates of Scottish shortbread helped convert any holdouts, but it was their empathetic demeanor and unabashed love of books that earned the Welches continuing success. Amusing, engaging, astute, and perceptive, Welch's buoyant memoir of an endangered way of life is a fervent affirmation of the power of books to bring people together. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 August #2
How a couple of outsiders captured the heart of a small Virginia community in the Appalachian Mountains and succeeded in the unlikely enterprise of opening an independent bookstore. When her husband, Jack, retired from his position as head of a college department in Edinburgh, the couple decided to move to the United States. Welch, an American ethnographer, had been offered a seemingly attractive position directing an arts nonprofit in the United States, but it didn't work out. Checking out new places, they settled on Big Stone Gap, the scene of Adriana Trigiani's popular novels as well as the 1908 classic, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, by John Fox Jr. On impulse, Welch and her husband purchased an old Edwardian mansion in poor repair and then decided to open a secondhand bookstore, which they gave the whimsical name Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books, Music and Internet Café. In Scotland, the couple had spent weekends performing at local fairs (she as a professional storyteller and he singing Scottish ballads), and Lonesome Pine soon doubled as a community center with a writing group, Celtic songs and dancing, mystery nights, gourmet treats and more. They worked to draw people in from surrounding communities, and initially, their unlikely gamble proved to be a big success as the store thrived. However, to supplement their income, the author took a job at a local nonprofit and ran into a conflict on policy. Gossip spread that they were "uppity incomers," her husband was refused membership in the Kiwanis club and customers fell away. This time, they determined to stay and in time were accepted as "Jack and Wendy, who run our town's bookstore." Welch discusses the financial practicalities and the ephemeral aspects involved in creating a peaceful space where people can hang out. An entertaining book with a full cast of eccentric characters. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 May #1

The bookstore is dead. That's what Welch and her husband kept hearing six years ago when they decided to flee professional dissatisfaction and realize their dream by opening Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books in the ground-down Virginia coal-mining town of Big Stone Gap. Here's how they're thriving.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 August #2

In this beguiling, blog-based memoir, a former nonprofit administrator and storyteller chronicles how she and her Scottish, ex-academic husband found themselves in a central Appalachian town of 5,400 mostly known for Adriana Trigiani novels and a seasonal "folk opera" based on Tales of the Lonesome Pine. The couple daydreamed about opening a used bookstore, and when they found a suitable five-bedroom fixer-upper, they bought it, moved upstairs, and got to work. With scant experience, they opened their bookstore amid the deepening recession and traditional publishing's general decline. Once the initial local curiosity was satisfied and grand opening thrills faded, in dire need of customers and revenue they reached out to a broader customer base through old-fashioned guerrilla marketing and community events on the way to a 38,000-volume inventory. The author chronicles how their customers taught her and her husband about the human element in small business, bookselling, and life itself. The whole narrative exudes enormous charm and the value of dreams and lives truly lived. Agent: Pamela and Louise Malpas, Harold Ober Associates. (Oct.)

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