LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: Imaginations run wild

Published 3:38 pm Thursday, January 19, 2023

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I bought a book. It was a used book.

I found it at a thrift store. It was a paperback and cost me $1.49, plus tax.

Larry Penkava

I had first looked at it and placed it back on the shelf, thinking it might be a chick book. But then, it was a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller, according to the scroll across the top of the front cover. But the selling point was “Now A Major Motion Picture.”

I never saw the movie, “The Girl on the Train: What You See Can Hurt You.” But I had seen promos of it on TV and it sounded intriguing.

The author, Paula Hawkins, was said to have worked as a journalist for 15 years “before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in London. ‘The Girl on the Train’ is her first thriller.”

I’ve always wondered how journalists, like myself, have the resources to quit their jobs and begin writing books. Or, how they have the time to stay on the job and write books in their spare time. I have neither the resources nor the time, even in semi-retirement.

There are deluded readers out there who think I actually have something to say. “I read all your stuff,” they tell me. To which I respond, “You have too much free time on your hands.”

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate it when I hear compliments on my drivel.

But then some will tell me I need to write a book. When I say I don’t have anything to write about, they’ll suggest I compile a book of my columns.

So, I’ve thought about taking a bunch of my column printouts, stapling them together and offering them at a table in front of Books-A-Million. I could call it “Thirty Years of Nonsense: What You Read Can Numb Your Brain.”

But back to “The Girl on the Train.” The copyright was in 2015 by Hawkins and the hardcover came out in January of that year. The paperback edition, which is now in my hands, was published in July 2016. The film was released in London in September and in the U.S. in October of that year.

I don’t know who bought my book when it was new but I think it was probably a woman. I base that on my first impression that it was a chick book.

I can say with confidence that the buyer was traveling when she made the purchase. She was likely either flying cross-country, visiting the Rocky Mountains or leaving the Rockies for, perhaps, Piedmont NC.

I can say that with certainty since the buyer left the sales slip inside the book, probably using it as a bookmark. The purchase could have been made while waiting for a connecting flight.

Or, maybe she was getting ready to board a plane for North Carolina and was looking for something to read during the journey.

I can definitely say that the traveler bought the book at the Tattered Cover Book Store at Denver International Airport. She bought it at 12:12 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, four months after the movie came out in the U.S.

The price of the book was $9.99 plus 77 cents tax for a total of $10.76. She paid cash to the cashier, David, who gave her 24 cents change.

I’d love to know what was going on in the buyer’s mind in choosing “The Girl on the Train.” After all, the girl, Rachel, rides the train almost every day, to London and back, morning and night, day after day.

As she rides, Rachel looks out the window at the homes along the way. She regularly sees a young couple out in their garden and she names Jason and Jess. She imagines them as perfectly happy with their lives.
Conversely, Rachel is a divorcee driven to alcohol, finding it difficult to look at her former home, just a few houses down from Jason and Jess, where her ex and his current wife live with their daughter.

Meanwhile, the book reader is in a jet plane, possibly taking moments between pages to look out the window. Does she let her imagination blossom as she looks at changing cloud formations, giving them names?

Now here I am, conceiving a personality for the former owner of my book.

Maybe I have too much time on my hands.

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189,