Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Whenever I’m in Savannah, I always stop in at E. Shaver Books. The “girls” at Shaver’s get me. They’ve hand-sold probably thousands of my books over the years–hey, I’ve written 17, ya know–, so whenever I stop in, they always have me autograph books. Then I wander around and see what’s what. That’s one of the joys of independent booksellers. They don’t just stock the New York Times bestsellers. They stock books they love, or think their customers will love. Indies know what their customers like to read. They know and support local writers. And they’re not afraid to champion a book they love. The Shaver’s girls always have the latest decorator porn books. They know and love cooking, so they are great at recommending cookbooks. They are the ones who put me onto THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY last year. And when I was there week before last, I asked about a book that’s receiving lots of buzz, THE POSTMISTRESS. Yes, they agreed, that was a good book. Big hit on the NYT list. But the book they insisted I buy was MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND. Here’s what the Random House website says about it:

You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

I finished Major Pettigrew recently, and am completely in love with this quiet, charming book set in an English village, and so grateful to the girls at Shaver’s for turning me onto it. Last summer, while I was on tour for THE FIXER UPPER, another bookseller at an indie store, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, hand-sold me another jewel of a book, called EAST OF THE SUN by Julia Gregson, which I never would have found without her recommendation. If you live in a community with an indie bookstore, you’re a lucky so-and-so. The big box stores have driven a lot of the wonderfullest indies out of business, and this tough economy has put them on the endangered species list. Some of my other favorite indies? Eagle Eye Books, right here in Decatur, just a couple miles from my house. FoxTale Books in Woodstock. GA. Scott’s in Newnan, Ga. Dog-Ear Books in Madison,GA. G.J. Ford on St. Simon’s Island,GA., Cyrano’s in Highlands, NC, Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC, Haslam’s, in my hometown of St. Petersburg, FL. Bay Street Trading Company in Beaufort, SC, Page and Palette in Fairhope, AL., Murder by the Book in Houston, Mystery Lover’s Books in Oakmont, PA., Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C.–if you’re ever in the triangle area, do yourself a favor and get over to Quail Ridge. While you’re there, it’s very likely you’ll run into a well-known author. This is partly because you can’t swing a cat in Raleigh without hitting a writer.I once burst into owner Nancy Olson’s office there while she was chatting with Charles Frazier, the author of COLD MOUNTAIN. There are many more wonderful independent bookstores than I can mention here. But the point is, the economy is tough. We’ve had a nasty winter, which means foot traffic is down at lots of these stores, who depend on foot traffic so they can hand-sell books. So do yourself a favor. Set aside an hour or so and wander over to your local indie and come away with a book you’ll love. And yeah, it’d be good if you bought a Mary Kay Andrews title. But if not, no worries. I’ll get ya next time.

6 thoughts on “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand”

  1. Independent book stores are the best and so hard to find. E. Shavers is one of my favorites – I can stay there for hours going from room to room. If you're ever in Oxford Mississippi – you must go to Square Books. And – if anywhere around the Destin area – please drop in at Sundog books at Seaside.

    All hard to access from Rome, GA!

  2. Bookstacks in coastal Bucksport, Maine is my favorite Indie. Andy, the owner, has some pretty good coffee, too! Karen

  3. Well hurray! Not only did I find your blog, I found the book you mentioned to me. It's now been ordered and time will tell if I fall for Major Pettigrew. Thanks for the recommendation during the book signing last night. You are a most enjoyable speaker.

  4. I recently read Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as well. And I also loved it! It was so beautifully written!

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