Winner of the 2020 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour!
Aspiring novelist Molly MacGregor's life is strikingly different from a literary heroine's. Named for one of literature's least romantic protagonists, Moll Flanders, Molly lives in Edmonton, a city she finds irredeemably unromantic, where she writes university term papers instead of novels, and sells shoes in the Largest Mall on Earth. There she seeks the other half of her young life's own matched pair. Delightfully whimsical, Heidi L.M. Jacobs' Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear explores its namesake's love for the written word, love for the wrong men (and the right one), and her complicated love for her city.
About the author
Heidi LM Jacobs was born and raised in Edmonton, AB. While completing her BA and MA in English at the University of Alberta, she worked in a wide variety of retail jobs, including selling shoes and clothes at West Edmonton Mall. After receiving a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska, she taught English in North Carolina. While living in the south, people repeatedly asked, "You aren't from around here, are you?", which inspired her to not only think about where she was from but to write about Edmonton as a place. Returning to Canada, she saw her country in new ways and took particular joy in reconnecting with Canadians' very particular kind of humour. She wrote the first drafts of Molly while teaching in Windsor, completing her Masters of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Western Ontario, and working as a librarian at the University of Windsor. In addition to researching and publishing widely in the areas of academic librarianship, Heidi is also working on a co-written, creative non-fiction book with Dale Jacobs, called 100 Miles of Baseball (forthcoming from Biblioasis Press in 2020) and a scholarly monograph about the 1934 Chatham Coloured All-Stars Baseball team, co-written with Miriam Wright (forthcoming from University of Waterloo Press in 2021).
- Winner, Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour
Excerpt: Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass & Purveyor of Fine Footwear (by (author) Heidi Jacobs)
Le Petit Chou Shoe Shop
The Mall, Edmonton
When you're named after someone or something you spend much of your life asking why. Why Rita? Why Sequoia? Why Wayne Gretzky? Most people are named after a grandparent, a favourite aunt, or, if you live in Edmonton, a hockey player. Your name might illuminate who you are, a historical moment, or what your parents wanted for you as they gazed lovingly into the tiny, squirmy wad of blankets you once were. Maybe your parents say, "You were named after my Great-Aunt Rita who studied art with Matisse, established a safe haven for feral cats in Regent's Park, and established an art school for underprivileged youth. We wanted to give you a name that conveyed her creative spirit, her compassion, and her commitment to social justice around the world." Or, maybe you are told, "I named you Sequoia so you would always be strong and deeply rooted to the earth." Or maybe you are told, "We named you Wayne because you were born the day they sold Gretzky to LA; it's the least we could do for Wayne after all he gave us." I am told, "You were named after the novel your father was teaching the day you were born."
And now, twenty years later, I find myself at Canada's largest shopping mall trying to explain to someone how it was that I became Molly. I was completing the paperwork for my new summer job at Le Petit Chou Shoe Shop and making small chat with Diana, the regional manager of the company that oversees four shoe stores in the Mall. Polishing my new name tag, Diana said, "Molly. That's a name you don't hear often. I was named after Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. Are you named after a famous Molly?" I looked up from my paperwork and saw she was well-named with her perfect hair and statuesque posture. I suddenly felt very short and in need of a haircut. I had to confess, "I was named after Daniel Defoe's novel, Moll Flanders. It was written in 1722." Without missing a beat, she said, "That is unfortunate, isn't it?" I had to agree. Perhaps I should have used this opportunity to say, "My name is Molly, but I go by Camilla. Or Lucinda. Or Isabella." Then I might not have had this hideous name tag in my hand with "Le Petit Chou Shoe Shop" sweeping elegantly across the top in a luxurious italic font, while "Molly, at your service" slumped in the middle in mundane Helvetica. After I signed the last piece of paper, Diana proclaimed, "You must be thrilled to be here, at the premier mall in the country. We think you should be delighted to be part of the Le Petit Chou family." I noticed she left no room for disagreement, so I nodded and attempted to agree wholeheartedly.
Working at the Mall would be very different from being an English major, but I was feeling up for the challenge. I was no longer Molly, soon-to-be third-year English major. I was now Molly, full-time purveyor of fine footwear, at your service. As I made my way home on the bus, toting a large pink binder with Manual for the Purveyance of Fine Footwearemblazoned on the cover, I was thinking about how my life might have been different had I been named after a Roman goddess instead of a character in a novel neither of my parents like very much. What I didn't tell Diana was the long story that led to me being named after Moll Flanders.
Praise for Molly of the Mall:
"[A] charming debut..."
~ Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star
"I loved this novel."
~Kerry ClarePickle Me This
"Heidi L.M. Jacobs has created a delightfully whimsical protagonist in Molly. Always informed by the characters from literature she loves, she approaches life in her own unique, and fanciful, way. Such fun to follow the retail nightmares and romantic comedy mishaps of this Austenian heroine of mid-90s Edmonton."
~ Dina Del Bucchia, author of It's a Big Deal!
"Heidi L.M. Jacobs nails it. Molly of the Mall,/i> relentlessly, hilariously conveys the ennui felt by anyone who has ever read a book and then gone to the mall, just as it captures the malaise and pretension of every undergraduate English course ever. A rollicking literary romance set in the icy moonscape of 1990s Edmonton, Molly is wicked good fun."
~ Kit Dobson, author of Malled: Deciphering Shopping in Canada