Sunday, July 3, 2022

BLOG TOUR - A Shoe Story

Title:   A Shoe Story
Author:  Jane L. Rosen
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   336
Date of Publication:   Berkley Books
My Rating:   4 Stars 


I LOVED THIS BOOK, sensitive and incredibly satisfying. --Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author

A young woman has one month and a closetful of shoes to discover the future she thought she'd lost in this captivating new novel from the author of Eliza Starts a Rumor and Nine Women, One Dress.

Esme Nash is eager to leave her small town and begin her carefully planned post-grad life: a move to New York City, an apartment with her loving college boyfriend, and a fancy job at an art gallery. But when tragedy strikes, instead of heading to Manhattan, she returns home to care for her ailing father, leaving every bit of her dream behind.

Seven trying years later, Esme is offered a dog-sitting job in Greenwich Village by a mysterious stranger, giving her access to all of her long-buried hopes and dreams--as well as to an epic collection of designer shoes. Esme jumps at a second chance to step into the future she's sure was meant to be hers.

As she retraces her steps, one pair of borrowed shoes at a time, making new friends and reconnecting with her old love, Esme tries on versions of herself she didn't know existed. But the hazy August days and warm summer nights pass too quickly, and Esme must decide how much of the life she imagined still fits, and what--and who--is on the road ahead of her.

Esme Nash’s life fell off course when her parents were in a devastating car accident. She lost her mother and her father became a paraplegic and also became mute.  Just about to finish college, starting a new job at an art gallery and moving in with her boyfriend Liam will give her a great start in life. However, now that her father needs her help, she abandoned all of her plans, including Liam and what they had together.  

It is seven years later and her father has passed away. Now Esme is at another turning point in her life. Taking a job as a dog sitter in Manhattan for the next month makes it impossible for her not to think of how life could have been. What’s more as she never really had closure with Liam and she considers various ways in order to clear up why she abandoned f their plans all those years ago. 

Life takes a swift turn for Esme. Not only is she temporarily caring for Elvis the dog, she has a room full of shoes to wear whenever and wherever she chooses. Esme also meets a couple of people who impact her life and the decisions she makes. Two of these people are Sy and Zach.  

This sensitive story has a lot of strong points, including how each chapter is named based on whatever shoes Esme is wearing. Also, this book deals with some tough issues, and these include alcoholism and bullying. Finding closure with Liam is only one of the things Esme experiences in this book, she finds romance, and that really worked well to round out this delightful read. 

Many thanks to Berkley Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:

  The Red-Bottomed Shoes

  Esme Nash strolled across the Dartmouth Green, committing each sight, sound, and smell to memory. Set to graduate the next day, she had approached every moment of her last weeks of college with this sense of impending nostalgia. She'd savored her last scoop of Morano Gelato on Main Street, her last latte at the library coffee shop, and her final grade (an A+ on her senior thesis in art history titled "The Seven Muses of Gustav Klimt").

  As she breathed in the scent of fresh-cut grass, Esme wondered if she would soon start feeling just as sentimental about the smells of NYC. She was pretty sure that New Hampshire would win the olfactory contest but thought New York might take the lead with her other senses.

  Esme reached her destination, the Hinman Mail Center, to pick up the package that her mom had now asked her about at least six times. The last package, she noted sentimentally, of her college career. She was also hoping to purchase a poster tube large enough to safely transport the life-size replica of her favorite Klimt painting, The Kiss, which had hung on her walls since first-year student move-in day. The golden masterpiece had followed her throughout her four years on campus, and she wasn't about to leave it behind as she started her next big adventure.

  Though Esme Nash grew up in a small town in upstate New York, she had always yearned to live in a big city, specifically Manhattan. In a few days' time her dream of doing so would become reality, and she was still pinching herself.

  She handed the package notification to the mail clerk and pulled out her to-do list while she waited. Esme loved a good to-do list, or more specifically crossing things off one gave her a sense of control, however out of hand things were.

  The frazzled mail clerk returned carrying a shoebox-size package wrapped in brown paper with her parents' return address in the corner. Esme immediately shook it, while the overwhelmed clerk searched for the delivery log.

  "It's shoes!" she exclaimed to no one in particular.

  "Wait, you have to sign for it," the clerk called out, still searching.

  The box most likely contained a pair of Birkenstocks, her practical mother's ideal for walking in graduation. Maybe she had gone with black patent leather straps as opposed to nubuck, to mark the grandeur of the occasion, but Esme knew that would likely be the extent of her extravagance.

  There was a small chance, though, that the box contained a pair of vintage Christian Louboutin pumps, specifically Pigalles, named for the risquŽ district in Paris. A used pair of the classic red-bottomed shoes were Esme's dream acquisition, and she and her mom had turned searching for them into a never-ending thrift-shop treasure hunt. They had spotted a few scuffed and scraped red soles in her size over the years, but Esme was determined not to settle for a single scratch that she had not personally inflicted on their shiny red bottoms.

  Could her mom have hit the jackpot just in time for her college graduation?

  "Sign here!" the clerk shouted.

  Everyone was spent by the end of the semester, and this woman was clearly no different. Esme passed on asking for the poster tube. She didn't see any and was not up for waiting around for another search, too anxious to get back to her room and tear open her package. She signed her name, thanked the clerk, and shook her box again. On the way back to her dorm, Esme allowed herself to dream that the box actually contained the sophisticated black patent pointed-toe pumps with the sky-high heels and the trademarked bright red soles. The latter detail was the equivalent of a secret covenant for a future filled with glamour, excitement, and promise.

  She pictured wearing the shoes after graduation, on the first day of her prized internship at the Hudson Payne Gallery. She imagined standing in them at the day's end, peering out the window, anticipating the arrival of her boyfriend, Liam Beck. From there they would wander along the narrow downtown streets, holding hands, before ducking into their local haunt for a bite to eat and a glass of merlot.

  Liam and Esme had begun concocting their future plans in the earliest weeks of their relationship. Once she discovered that he shared her New York City dreams, Esme fell even harder for the clean-cut, handsome, baseball-playing Alpha Delta from Cape Cod, who she had first imagined to be just a fling. Their vast differences-him at his happiest shotgunning a beer, her at her happiest in the galleries of the Hood, Dartmouth's campus art museum-shrank in comparison to their similar life goals. Never mind that when he kissed her, even after nearly three years of dating, her heart still raced.

  She pictured herself kicking off the red-bottomed pumps to climb the gazillion stairs to the fourth-floor Greenwich Village walk-up the two were set to share, even though her mother had gone on and on about the cow and the milk whenever she had brought up "living in sin."

  "It's about being practical," Esme had explained, "so that I'll have enough money after rent to buy my own milk!" Practicality her mother understood. Exorbitantly expensive high-heeled shoes, not as much.

  Esme couldn't take it anymore. She leaned the package atop one of the ivy-spattered brick walls that marked the old New England campus and ripped off the outer paper to reveal Happy Graduation gift wrap and a bright pink card.

  Open the card first! she heard her mother insisting.

  In typical Maggie Nash fashion, the note was long-winded and filled with praise for her only child: the joy she had given her, the endless pride she had in all of her accomplishments, and a lot of talk of the future and all the changes that were coming for them both. That part left Esme curious regarding her parents' plans for their fast-approaching empty nest.

  It ended with:

  A gift for walking into your future.

  Love, Mom

  Those are some lofty words for a pair of Birkenstocks, Esme thought eagerly.

  Just as she was about to rip off the wrapping for the big reveal, her phone buzzed. She hoped it was her mom, excited to share the moment with her in real time. But the words Rochester General Hospital flashed across her screen, sending her heart pitching to her stomach.

  "Hello." All   "Is this Esme Nash?"

  "It is," she managed.

  "This is the intake nurse from Rochester General Hospital. Are you a relative of Henry and Margaret Nash?"

  "I'm their daughter."

  "I'm afraid your parents have been in an accident."

  Esme walked across campus like a zombie, straight to her car, and got in. She didn't cry; she didn't call or text anyone to tell them what had happened. She just turned on the ignition, gripped the wheel, and drove straight home. Six silent hours later she arrived at Rochester General.

  While the Dartmouth College Class of 2009 was walking in their commencement ceremony, Esme was sitting in a folding chair outside the ICU waiting to hear the results of her father's third surgery. The hospital social worker approached to discuss burial plans for her mother, before convincing her to go home and get a little sleep. She listened, thankful that someone else made a decision for her after a night of unimaginable ones.

  Esme made her way through the hospital parking lot to her car and got in. As the door closed behind her she heard a scream-a loud, piercing, and painful scream. It took her a minute to realize it was coming from her own mouth. The box wrapped in Happy Graduation paper peeked out from the floor of the passenger seat, causing the notable accomplishment-college graduation-to enter her mind before floating out again as if it were completely insignificant. She reached for it and tore off the paper, revealing a light brown shoebox with Christian Louboutin's signature scribbled across it in white, the word PARIS added auspiciously in one corner. Her hands trembled as she shook open the lid. She pulled out the red felt dust bag and then the shoes-brand-new black patent Pigalle pumps with one-hundred-millimeter heels and the signature red-bottomed soles. She clutched them like a life vest, lay down on the front seat of her car, and whispered, "Thank you, Mommy," before falling off into a fitful sleep.  


The Orange Crocs  


Esme Nash adjusted herself in her seat on the Greyhound bus, wiggling her butt to and fro, while gently pressing her knees into the seat back in front of her. Her intention was to nap for at least the first half of the seven-hour ride to New York City. She wondered if she was too old to sit in this childlike position but couldn't imagine falling asleep sitting upright.

  At thirty I will sit properly, she told herself. One more year to slouch.

  She thought about the name her mother had given her-Esme. Unlike her dad, who tended to fly by the seat of his pants, her mom, like Esme, had always been a planner. Maggie Nash had chosen the name for her future daughter way back in high school, after reading Salinger's short story, "For EsmŽ-With Love and Squalor." Now, a few days after her father had passed away, making her an orphan like the Esme in the story, she felt a misdirected anger toward her mother. Maybe if she had named her Heidi or Gidget, she would be yodeling in the Alps right now or surfing the waves in Malibu instead of sitting, orphaned and alone, on a Greyhound bus.

  She closed her eyes as the bus whirred out of the Rochester depot. Even though she had been up half the night and refrained from having a cup of coffee before the 8:00 a.m. departure, sleep, once again, eluded her. One would think it was from excitement, but Esme knew that it was most likely nerves. She had not left her hometown of Honeoye Falls, or even the Rochester area, in seven years, except for a few trips to New Haven to take her dad to a spinal cord specialist at Yale. Those trips had been a complete waste of time, as the doctors there had the same diagnosis as the ones back home: Henry Nash would never walk again. They also had no scientific explanation for why her father didn't speak. He had not said a word in the seven years between the accident and his passing.

  On the previous morning, Esme had sat on the floor of her father's bedroom staring down the last relic of caring for him: a pair of orange Crocs she had bought to wear exclusively in the house, when it had gotten to the point when germs were his biggest enemy. They were all that was left after the men from Home Pro Medical Supply had carried the monitors, the oxygen tank, and, finally, the hospital bed out of the house. She had picked up the Crocs carefully, as if their namesake might inhabit them and take a piece out of her. In truth they already had.

  When sitting there, alone on the floor, she admitted to herself that she wasn't doing well. For the first time in a long while, she'd seriously considered calling the grief counselor who had helped her after her mom had died, though she wasn't quite sure this was grief. It felt more like depression. Most of all, she felt demoralized, as if she had no idea what to do or where to be or, quite frankly, who she was anymore.

  She had known from the start that death was the endgame for her father-science and the percentages all pointed to it, but she hadn't expected to slowly lose herself as well. With each passing day, the things that were once important to her had slipped away. While getting her hair cut for his funeral, she realized it had been ages since she'd even gotten a trim. She couldn't remember the last time she had shaved her legs, let alone bought a new pair of shoes, and she had let all the art-mag subscriptions, which had once made her feel so hip and up-to-date, lag. She really didn't like who she had become, aside from the fact that she hadn't given up on her father. Henry Nash had become unrecognizable as well; once the funniest person in the room, he died the complete opposite.

  Someone at her dad's service had handed her the name of a therapist, and while she had dismissed it at the time, calling now seemed to make sense. She did not know what to do next, and the thought of tackling her minutia-filled to-do list made her want to cry.

  She was wearing the cardigan sweater she had worn to the funeral. It was her mother's, and since she had not taken it off for days, she was concerned that she might need to wash it, rinsing away the last hint of patchouli and vanilla that somehow still lingered on it after so many years.  

She'd reached into the pocket of the sacred cardigan and felt for the therapist's card, part of the trove bestowed on her at the funeral by mostly well-meaning people proffering unsolicited advice. She read each out loud before flicking them one by one across the room in the general direction of the trash bin like a kid flipping baseball cards.  

First up, a card from a real estate agent, obnoxiously placed directly into Esme's pocket, followed by a painfully nasal "Call me when you want to sell this place."  

Esme had responded confidently, "I'm never selling my parents' house."  

She'd pedaled her legs up and down, to loosen the seal that was forming between her thighs and the vinyl floor, before flicking the real estate agent's card across the room as well. She'd followed that with cards for a medium, an organizer, and a gutter cleaner.

  The last was the source of her only laugh in weeks-as if Esme's paralyzed father had been cleaning the gutters for the past seven years, and now that Esme was "orphaned," employing someone to perform this service would be at the top of her list.

  The last two cards were for the therapist and a dog-sitting company.

  "When my husband died I started fostering dogs," her elderly neighbor had advised before handing her the card. "It was the best thing I did for myself to heal."  

At the time, Esme had taken the card for Waggy Tails with an optimistic smile that was completely fake. The last thing she wanted was to take care of another living, breathing thing; yet in the aftermath, she didn't flick it across the room. Instead, she put it back in her pocket.

Excerpted from A Shoe Story by Jane L. Rosen. Copyright © 2022 by Jane L. Rosen. Excerpted by permission of Berkley Publishing Group. All right reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Please also enjoy my YouTube video review - 


Jane L. Rosen is an author and Huffington Post contributor. She lives in New York City and Fire Island with her husband and three daughters. Her first novel Nine Women, One Dress was translated into ten languages. Her second novel Eliza Starts a Rumor won the Zibby Award for Best Sophomore Novel. A Shoe Story is being released June 22 and On Fire Island , June 23.

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