Excerpt from The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Stationery Shop

A Novel

by Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali X
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2019, 320 pages

    Feb 2020, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Print Excerpt

"Hi there! Joining us for Friday lunch today?" Claire's voice was loud.

Walter opened his mouth to say something.

"Hello, he won't," Roya quickly said. "My husband is going to try the famous faux lobster roll at the Dandelion Deli. I looked it up on the Yelp. So rare to find lobster roll served in the middle of winter, don't you think? Even if it's fake." She was rambling. She was trying so hard not to be nervous. "It was given five stars."

"That deli?" The receptionist looked surprised.

"Their lobster roll," Roya mumbled.

Walter sighed. He held up five fingers to indicate to Claire that his wife believed in the five stars.

"Oh, okay! Lobster!" Claire nodded. She pronounced it lobstah. "Have to trust those Yelp reviews!"

"Go on, then," Roya said gently to her husband. She raised herself on her toes to kiss Walter's freshly shaven cheek. The crepey skin, his Irish Spring soap scent. She wanted to reassure him.

"Righty-oh." Walter nodded. "You got it. Off I go, then." But he didn't move.

She squeezed his hand, the familiar soft grip of her life.

"Don't let her get into too much trouble now," Walter finally said to the receptionist. His voice was strained.

A blast of cold air filled the lobby when Walter walked out the double doors and descended into the icy parking lot.

Roya stood uneasily in front of the desk. She was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of ammonia and some kind of stew. Beef? Definitely beef with onions. The heat, cranked up to compensate for the New England cold, made the stew smell overpowering. She couldn't believe she had actually come here. The radiators hissed, wheelchairs squeaked, it all suddenly felt like a terrible mistake.

"And how may I help you?" Claire asked. A gold cross hung around her neck. She looked at Roya with a strange expression, as though she knew her.

"I made an appointment to see someone," Roya said. "One of your assisted-living patients."

"Ah, you mean a resident. Great. And who may that be?"

"Mr. Bahman Aslan." The words came out of Roya's mouth slowly, like rings of smoke, visible and real. It had been years since she'd said his full name out loud.

The cross on Claire's neck glinted under the fluorescent lights. Walter would be out of the parking lot by now.

Claire got up and came around the desk to face Roya. She gently took both of Roya's hands in hers. "It is so nice to finally meet you, Mrs. Archer. I am Claire Becker, the assistant administrator at the Duxton Center. Thank you for coming. I have heard so very much about you. It means a lot to me that you are here."

So she wasn't the receptionist—she was an administrator. How did Claire Becker know Roya's name? It must have been in the appointment book. She had made an appointment, after all. But why did this young woman act like she knew her? And how had she heard so much about her?

"Please come," Claire said softly. "I'll take you right to him." This time she didn't add the obligatory exclamation mark that seemed necessary for covering up misery around here.

Roya followed Claire down a corridor and into a large hall furnished with a long table and plastic folding chairs arranged on either side. But no one sat at the table playing bingo or gossiping.

Claire pointed to the far end of the room. "He's been waiting for you."

By the window sat a man in a wheelchair next to an empty plastic chair. His back was to them; Roya couldn't see his face. Claire started to approach him, but then she stopped. She cocked her head and took in Roya from head to toe as if measuring her potential for safety, for harm, for drama. Claire fidgeted with her necklace. "Is there anything I can get you? Water? Tea? Coffee?"

"Oh, I'm fine, thank you for asking."

"Are you sure?"

"You are kind to ask. But no."

Now it was Claire's turn to linger. By God, no one wanted to leave Roya alone with this ... resident. For crying out loud. As if she, a small woman in her seventies, held any kind of power over him or anyone else anymore. As if she, Roya Archer, could torch the place down with her presence, create a blast just by being there.

Excerpted from The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali. Copyright © 2019 by Marjan Kamali. Excerpted by permission of Gallery Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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