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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Great Good Woman for Books

For many years, I mourned the fact that there was no good bookstore in my neighborhood of Montclair. I even fantasized about opening up a bookstore/cafe of my own, but obviously that never happened. What happened is that Debi Echlin came along and made my fantasy her reality. She opened A Great Good Place for Books, a tiny, cozy shop that started as a used-books place and then magically transformed (seemingly overnight) into a vibrant, beautiful bookstore that hosted readings, supported authors in countless ways, hosted Harry Potter publishing parties, and became a true gem of our community. Debi singlehandedly sold thousands of books and really spread the word about books she loved. She was the provider of monthly books for literally hundreds of local bookgroups. You can browse the bookgroup table and see stacks of books with little flags that say "Books and Broads," or "Mom-Girl Books," to see what the neighborhood is reading at any given time.

I had hoped for a long and fruitful partnership with Debi and A Great Good Place for Books. She has generously supported my fledgling in-home book reading series, by providing a book table for visiting authors for parties and readings and my house. She provided a wonderful reception for my friend Sandra Gulland, author of the fabulous Josephine Bonaparte trilogy. Debi and her readers have been avid fans of Sandra's for years, and she gave her a heroine's welcome a few summers back. When my friend Masha came to town, Debi and GGP ordered stacks of books and sold them from my living room. I had always dreamed of having my own book(s) sold by hand, exclaimed over, by that beautiful red-haired woman.

When I began hosting book events at my house, Debi and Kathleen (who also works at GGP) always instantly offered to loan me their stacks of folding chairs. So each time I held a reading I'd show up on LaSalle with my blue minivan, and they'd help me haul dozens of chairs out to the car.

I'm so sad that I won't be able to work with Debi on these home readings, which she was so enthusiastic about. Debi passed away in her sleep this Thanksgiving weekend. I am really beyond shocked. She was so vibrant, full of life, sparkling, that it is really incomprehensible that she isn't behind that counter, pointing out her latest favorite books with that incredibly warm and enthusiastic smile.

I hope that I will be able to continue the home reading series with the employees who will be keeping A Great Good Place going. I hope that you will all take the time to read a good book this week, and think of Debi.


Blogger Masha said...

Susan, what a lovely entry.
What a loss.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:47:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful tribute and beautiful pictures. She was such a light.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 6:21:00 PM

Blogger C(h)ristine said...

a wonderful eulogy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 6:37:00 PM

Blogger Libby said...

Susan, I was shocked when I came to the end of this post. It is such a lovely celebration of Debi--I never even knew she existed and now I too mourn her loss.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 7:57:00 PM

Blogger expatmama said...

Oh dear, yes, what a loss. A beautiful tribute.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 1:06:00 AM

Anonymous Ericka said...

Oh Susan, how terrible! Thank you for writing so beautifully about this loss to the entire book-loving community.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 7:47:00 PM

Anonymous wendy said...

Susan, the lack of sickness is really what makes this, as I think I already said to you, not only a loss of great magnitude, disastrous but also mysterious. Is there any medical reason a young beautiful engaged woman would die in her sleep? I am still in vicarious or real shock.

Of course now you MUST go on with the readings bec. each will be in her honor and her work will be kept alive by you and those working at this beautiful bookstore. My condolences to all who loved her. xxoo Wendy

Friday, December 02, 2005 11:19:00 AM

Blogger melanie said...

I'm so sorry for this loss.

Monday, December 05, 2005 9:59:00 AM


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