The Antique Shop at the End of the Universe

I actually finished a book recently! Review of The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters by Timothy Schaffert comin’ up!

(Review added 12/7.)

Ever since I’d had to read an excerpt from one of Schaffert’s novels for a history class last year, I’d wanted to read one of his novels. I ordered one off of Peebs, and decided that no day like today to get it read, reviewed, and passed on (I’ll be mailing it to Florida later today). So please enjoy this review.

The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters takes place in an antique shop in rural Nebraska, home to teenage sisters Lily and Mabel, who have been abandoned by their mother after their father’s suicide. Mabel, the older sister, is more methodical and introspective, whereas Lily is more impulsive and flirtatious. I wasn’t quite sure where the novel was going at first, but after we get to know their story a little better, we meet Jordan, a local boy who’s in a bit of a love triangle with both sisters. The story splits apart when Lily and Jordan hit the road in search of the sisters’ mother without telling Mabel, while back in Nebraska, Mabel searches for answers about her late father and ends up becoming quite involved with a family who have lost a young daughter. The story takes a lot of twists and turns, and honestly, I could not have begun to predict where it would end up.

One of the most beautiful things (or most annoying things) about the book is Schaffert’s language. He is incredibly descriptive, to the point where you have to actually be sitting up and paying full attention to every single word. It’s a fun place to imagine, with tons of creative details like Lily’s hollowed out school bus apartment to the descriptions of all the items in the shop. You can easily get lost in the richness of rural Nebraska, which, ironically, is probably poor and boring in real life. However, this does present a problem for reading this book before going to sleep; if you hypno-read, like I sometimes do, or skim pages, you can miss details which are incredibly important. For example, towards the end of the book, Mabel wakes up in the Roseleafs’ basement in her underwear, and when Wyatt and his brothers wake her up to take her to the Stitch farm, her clothes are still soaked from the rainstorm the night before. They have a box of miscellaneous clothes, and instruct Mabel to pick out something to wear. Then, there’s a paragraph describing the t-shirt she selected, which was a favorite of Callie’s. They then stuff her in the car, and when they arrive at the farm, Mabel decides she doesn’t want to get out, so Wyatt pulls her out of the car and through the mud. I was a little taken aback, thinking that Mabel, a young adult, was just wearing a t-shirt and underwear, riding in a truck with 4 men, and then dragged out and taken to the Stitch farm, but I turned to the previous page. Sure enough, in the paragraph where Mabel grabs clothes from the box, it also says that she gets a denim skirt with a butterfly appliqued on it, and a pair of jelly sandals, which makes it a lot less weird.

Another thing that’s interesting about this book is just the quirkiness of all the characters. To a degree, they all seem impulsive, and they seem to just do things at random, unexpectedly, which makes them fun but at the same time, a little questionable. For example, Lily has a habit of putting coins in her mouth (something she does several times in the book), and Mabel spray-paints her sneakers red for no real reason at all. Just like, yeah, let’s do it.

Overall, if you’re looking to go on an adventure but not as far as outer space, another dimension, or a world of wizards and witches, I recommend this book. The fact that there’s absolutely no magic in it makes it even more magical of a read.

10 thoughts on “The Antique Shop at the End of the Universe

  1. The title of the book in and of itself is intriguing and would draw me in. I too tend to skim pages at times and in doing so can miss important details and since this book is VERY detailed I would have to find some quiet time with no distractions to read. Great review Jacob hope you have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for a happy new year.

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