'The Man With The Glass Heart'

After doing this job for two decades, there aren’t too many “firsts” left. I’d like to thank Shelly Reuben for giving me one recently – the chance to write my first “blurb.”

While many people refer to any short brief they ask us to put in the paper as a “blurb,” what I’m referring to here is its more or less official meaning – a book jacket mini-review.

Evening Sun readers know Shelly Reuben as the author of a monthly column, “Tilting at Windmills,” right here on this very page, in which she expounds on myriad topics – family, friends, and, frequently, her love of books. There’s a good reason for that: in addition to being a roving newspaper columnist and arson investigator (maybe not in that order), Shelly is also an accomplished author.

That’s how we first came to know her here at the paper, when one of my long-gone staff writers was contacted to review ... I’m pretty sure it was 2006’s “Tabula Rasa,” a fictionalized account of famed serial killer Waneta Hoyt, who murdered five of her own children over the years in nearby Newark Valley.

Not long after, Shelly practically beat down my door with an idea for a column in her adopted hometown newspaper (she divides her time between New York City and a home in Afton). I soon came to realize that Shelly isn’t the type of person who takes either “no” or “maybe” as an answer. I’m glad I said yes! Starting out as a weekly columnist, Shelly moved on to a serialized collection of letters from her late father, “Come Home. Love, Dad,” and has now segued into a monthly opinion piece on ... well, frankly, I never know what she’s going to write about – but I (and you, given the feedback we’ve received) always look forward to the monthly surprise.

Back in December, I wrote a piece on Shelly’s expansion into the e-publishing world. In all, she has seven novels to her name, several of which were out of print until recently. Partnering with a digital conversion company, Shelly’s made all of her works available as ebooks. Priced around $2.99 each, Reuben’s novels – “Julian Solo,” “Origin and Cause,” “Spent Matches,” “The Skirt Man,” “Weeping,” “The Man with the Glass Heart” and “Tabula Rasa” are all ready for download on your favorite electronic reading device from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and other services.

So why I am writing about all this now? Shelly’s coming to Chenango to give a series of author talks and book signings, starting with a 1:30 p.m. session Saturday at the Afton Free Library. Then on Tuesday, Feb. 26, she’ll be right here in Norwich at 7 p.m. at Guernsey Library (see the ad on today’s Page 8) to introduce readers to her latest book, “The Man With The Glass Heart.” She’ll round up the mini-tour with a stop at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at Moore Memorial Library in Greene.

A couple months ago, I curled up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon and tore through “The Man With The Glass Heart” in one sitting (on my iPad, I should mention). It’s more of a novella, really, in case you’re thinking I don’t move from the couch that often. The story introduces us to Panache, an exuberant road gypsy, on a trek through the mountains where she comes across Benjamin Pencil, a hardened character intent on guarding his most prized possession – a giant, gleaming glass heart. Here’s what I wrote in my first official “blurb:”

“I’ll admit I approached Shelly Reuben’s ‘The Man With The Glass Heart’ with a cynical, stony heart of my own — from the title of the fable, I expected a heavy-handed metaphor. But by the end of Reuben’s short, finely-crafted tale, my own heart had been through the ringer, but in the end was opened to new and fantastical possibilities. Reuben uses rich, luxurious language to transport the reader into a fairy-tale land that is nonetheless grounded in reality and illustrative of a life well lived, and loved. Everyone will find reflections of their own most treasured possession in Benjamin Pencil’s. ‘The Man With The Glass Heart’ broke mine.”

Jeffrey Genung, The Evening Sun

Next stop, Hollywood movie posters! Maybe not, but it was an honor to be asked to review such a fine work, and one of a treasured friend. I strongly recommend that you stop by one of those three libraries for Shelly’s meet & greet talks – like any one of her fictional progeny, she’s quite the character.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunjeff.

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