You’ve seen his comments on the Deb Ball. He seems inordinately fond of our Wednesday Deb, Alicia. Now, for the first time, Matthew Quick is stepping out from the comment thread to chat about his second book – and debut YA novel – SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR (Little, Brown & Co.), which hits bookstores TODAY! Matthew’s debut novel THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus & Giroux) was a 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention and a Nancy Pearl / NPR 2009 Summer’s Best Books selection. The Weinstein Company has optioned the movie rights. TSLP has been translated into Italian, Spanish, and Chinese; it was also selected for the UK’s TV Book Club. Matthew lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife, current Wednesday Deb Alicia Bessette. Please visit his website at www.matthewquickwriter.com and don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into giveaways for both of his books!
Here’s Matthew’s memorable shopping story:
We were tired, dehydrated, hungry, daunted, visually over-stimulated, financially stretched, weary of the people around us who seemed to be even worse off than we were, and seriously done—but we had one more person on our Christmas list and therefore could not leave the mall just yet.
“What are we going to get Kelly?” Alicia said.
I shrugged as the bag handles cut deeper into my fingers. I was gnawing on the inside of my cheek the way a wild animal will chew through its own leg when its paw is stuck in a trap.
“Christmas shopping sucks!” Alicia said and then picked up one of those fancy leather chairs they now have in the middle of the Cherry Hill Mall, raised it over her head, and smashed it against the wall.
Okay, Al didn’t really do that, but when I looked into her eyes, she had that rabid-raccoon look she gets whenever she is seriously stressed.
“Next year,” Alicia said, “we’re going to the islands. I hate holiday shopping. I can’t—”
“We’re buying that purse for Kelly,” I said and then pointed to the awesome purple, white and black number in the store window behind Alicia.
“It’ll be too expensive,” Alicia said.
“Kelly will love it, and the purchase will officially end our time in the mall. That’s a win-win,” I said, raising my hand above my head.
“Okay,” Alicia said, completing the high-five.
We went into the store and purchased the purse.
We had metaphorically gnawed through our own leg.
We were finally free.
But there was a catch—like there always is.
Right when I thought we were about to escape holiday shopping, when I could taste our freedom, the cashier said, “We’ll wrap your gift now. Just have a seat on the couch.”
“I don’t want it wrapped! Please, no! I just want to leave the mall!” I yelled, but the woman had already disappeared into the back of the store.
Damn you, mall!
Alicia began to weep.
Actually, that’s a lie, but Alicia was close to crying, I could tell, and we both just wanted to go home to solitude and maybe drink some wine.
We sat down on a nice leather couch and waited.
I was checking my e-mail on my phone and Alicia was yelling at me for checking my e-mail too much when I heard these words: “Do you like stickers?”
When I looked up there was a child sitting across from me. He was wearing a brown Yankees hat cocked sideways, gangsta-style.
I wasn’t sure how to answer.
Honestly, I didn’t want to talk to the kid or anyone.
I just wanted to be left alone.
“I was just at Build-A-Bear!” he said with a huge smile on his face. “And they gave me FREE stickers! FREE!”
It’s hard to convey with words, but the expression on the kid’s face suggested that his Build-A-Bear experience was akin to being told that you have won a billion dollars—perhaps as you tandem hang glide across the Grand Canyon with your Hollywood crush. It was clear to me that receiving stickers at Build-A-Bear was perhaps the best experience this kid had known thus far in life.
“Cool,” I said, surprising myself—smiling even.
I looked over at Alicia. She was smiling too. It was the first smile I had seen on her face in hours.
“You want these stickers I got at Build-A-Bear?” the kid asked us and then extended his arm, offering us a rectangular sheet.
“Those are for you,” Alicia said. “We don’t want to take YOUR stickers.”
“I can get more at Build-A-Bear,” the kid said. “They’re really nice there. You should Build-A-Bear. It’s really fun!”
“Maybe we will,” Alicia said.
At this point the salesperson returned with Kelly’s fabulous purse and we said goodbye to our new friend.
The kid shook his index finger at us, said, “Build-A-Bear,” pressed his lips together, and then nodded confidently.
Alicia and I didn’t Build-A-Bear, but we left the mall smiling and talking about the impossibly nice kid in the store—how infectious his happiness was, and how easy it is to forget that almost everything can be awesome if you have the right outlook.
That little man had a totally different mall experience—a better one—and I envied his kid-like wonder; I remembered how I once loved going to the mall.
When we took the shopping bags into our apartment, we were surprised to find Mariah Carey in our living room performing, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” backed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
That’s a lie.
But we felt good enough for it to be true.
We had completed our shopping and were finally drinking wine.
Life was good.
We talked about that Build-A-Bear-loving kid for weeks, and he has become something of a role model.
A few months ago I returned to the Cherry Hill Mall before a TV interview; I was in search of just the right dress shirt, which was elusive. When I started chewing the inside of my cheek, I paused, smiled, and said, “Build-A-Bear.” I didn’t actually go to “Build-A-Bear,” but I stopped and thought about how being interviewed on TV is awesome and finding a new shirt could be too.
My new novel SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR is about a teenager named Amber Appleton who is living on a school bus with her alcoholic mother, and yet—through unique acts of kindness—Amber manages to radiate hope and lift the spirit of an entire community.
She’d definitely give you stickers if she had any and you happened to look like you needed a sheet.
Her friends call her the princess of hope and I hope that you’ll pluck her off the shelf and make her come to life in your mind. And if you do, I hope you’ll feel like I did when I left that purse store last December.
Even though I hadn’t yet met the kid in the brown Yankees cap, I believed he existed when I wrote SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR.
I hope you’ll read my new book.
I hope you’ll believe too.
Have you experienced a timely, unexpected act of kindness? Tell us about it below and you’ll be entered to win either a signed paperback copy of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK or a signed hardback copy of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR.