It was a small volume tossed carelessly in with the rest of the frayed spines on the Public Library bookshelf. "Love of Seven Dolls" by Paul Gallico.
He was one of my favorite authors as a teen, and this was one book that intrigued me, with a faded rendition of a full-skirted girl looking at what appeared to be a puppet show on the cover.
I borrowed it frequently, whenever I felt the urge, over the next several years. I must have been the only person in the city who took out that particular book, judging from my ability to always locate it on the shelf, whenever I wanted it.
The years passed, but it remained one of the books seared in my memory, even though the story, in retrospect, doesn't seem that remarkable now. On a rereading, some of the story seems rather dated, but the charm of the main plot still shines through.
After much deliberation, I decided to see if I could locate a new copy of it for my home library. It was out of print, only available through second-hand book sellers. So I turned to the likes of abebooks.com and alibris.com and placed an order for the least expensive hard-bound edition I could find.
The book arrived, among others that I had ordered at the same time. This had a faux leather cover, with the name of the book and the mysterious legend ALYCE PEKORS at the bottom right.
I couldn't resist checking for the name on Google. And, the history of this particular carefully-preserved copy fell in place.
The original owner of this book was Miss Alyce Pekors, the longest serving US civil servant in Singapore, who died in Michigan last November.
From a newsletter with a memorial article:
"Of course, much of the details of her “working” life prior to taking the administrative role with the Navy in Singapore were never discussed among her many friends. She brushed off enquiries with Lauren Bacall like aplomb. By her very nature, she was reminiscent of an interesting earlier era.
Whether it was her Isadora Duncan impersonation as she drove her vintage MG around town (of course, it wasn’t vintage when she first bought it), or her Givenchy and pearls Audrey Hepburn look when she entertained, Alyce was always one classy lady."
She must have loved the book very much to have taken pains to have the original paperback replaced by a custom hard-binding.
Now the book sits on my shelf, bringing with it a whiff of the chequered life of the one who owned it before me. We are strangely bound across space and time, through this slim black volume with gold lettering.