"Her interest in handbags was contagious, grave, and exuberant, but eventually I found that her true obsession was the soul. "What is the soul?" asks Rumi, the poet. "I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks."
Shaya Neige is the narrator and the speaker quoting Rumi is Ingrid-Simone. They are employees of Theodora's Fine Consignment Clothing store. One of the mysteries is how they keep their jobs and how the owner Florine makes enough money to keep the establishment open. Because they have a lot of time to talk, Shaya Neige tries to determine and understand Ingrid-Simone, her junior by fifteen years. How does she know so many poets? How can she quote them so easily and what about her other literary references?
Shaya is a doctoral candidate who has retreated from academic life and abandoned her dissertation. Both she and Ingrid-Simone are lost souls floundering through an Edmonton winter. It takes until near the end of the book for Shaya to discover why Ingrid-Simone is so obsessed with the soul and red handbags.
This is not a quick or easy read, despite its economic 140 pages. There are so many references and quotes from literature and poetry. For a long time, it seems there is not point to the narrative, other than the exploration of the lives of two eccentric women with elegant prose. When the secret is revealed, it is a shock. Be patient.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.