What I’m Reading: The Page Turners

A couple days back I was sitting in my office after a day’s work/play, and realized that I would need something to read that evening. As synchronicity does, I ran across the name DeAnna Knippling. Hmmm … I said to myself. DeAnna’s an interesting writer. Which is true. I’ve read some of her short works, but I hadn’t read longer stuff. So I scanned through her work online and came upon a cover for The Page Turners I thought looked interesting, and then scanned the description.

You’re taking a train ride from Alabama to the Chinatown in San Francisco to be with your mother, who is dying of cancer. The year is sometime in the 1920s. A white man walks by, carrying a book that slips away from him. He can’t find it…it’s after midnight and the train is dark.

The book calls to you.

It says its name is Jimmy O’Toole and the man who dropped it is a sorcerer. You’re holding a grimoire…although it used to be more than that.

It used to be a person.

You know your mom should be able to work this out. She’s always been into magic.

You just have to live long enough to get the book home to her…


Well, alright, I thought. I’m hooked. Let’s hop aboard.

Let’s just say it like it is. I loved The Page Turners from the minute it started to the minute it ended—and then some. It’s a short novella (or maybe a long novelette), so you’ll read it in an hour or so. Which, to my ear, was perfect. It’s a strongly written story, with a surrealistic element of magic and time mixed in. I will not describe the plot because I want you to read this and, if I dig in too far I’ll be doing you a disservice. Let the description above do the heavy lifting, and let me just say it was a wonderful, intriguingly delightful find.

When I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I went back and scanned through bits just to brush up my thoughts. When I woke up this morning the story was still tugging at my mind. This next bit that I’m going to say is going too far, really, but the flavor is right: I know what happened in “The Page Turners,” but almost don’t. I know what it means, but still feel like a full understanding is just outside my grasp. What isn’t going to far is to say that I absolutely love that feeling.

I think a part of it is how deeply DeAnna Knippling gets me into the story even as early as the cover—which is intriguingly broken and which, in retrospect, sets the stage so well. Just that afternoon I had been talking to Dean Wesley Smith about the word “depth,” which he uses quite often, and I mentioned how the problem I often find with the word “depth” as applied to stories is that it’s so hard to define. It’s one of those things you feel more than can point to. There’s setting, of course. That’s the default interpretation whenever one talks about the term “depth” as it applies to fiction. But it’s so much more than that. Depth sits at the intersection of setting and characterization and word choice and frame of mind. “At the end of the day,” I said to Dean “you can get away with anything as long as you’re interesting.”

There was never a moment in reading The Page Turners where I was not interested.

Including, today, twenty-four hours later.

Buy this book from your favorite retailer at DeAnna’s BookBub Page. It’s only $.99. You’ll be glad you did.

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