Bobbi Erhart's book "Paper or Plastic: Life in the Checkout Lane" is a funny, charming first title (the sort of book many people probably plan to write about the "you-wouldn't-believe-it" nature of their workplace escapades yet never execute). This book is great fun to read and while the narrative isn't the voice of a seasoned writer, it IS the voice of a great story-teller. I stayed up late reading this book because I couldn't stop turning the pages and that is high praise for ANY book no matter how lauded the author. In fact, there were times when I felt like I was listening to her tell me stories! Erhart certainly attains the mark of any great writer: she can make just about ANYTHING engaging and can breathe life into the most simple scenario. The book is a mixture of autobiography and a collection of stories about her years behind the check-out-stand and the colourful (to say the least!) supermarket denizens who landed in her queue.
There is a lot of heart and warmth to the humour in these quirky stories and you can immediately tell that the author is a keen and compassionate observer.
Never sardonic or cutting, Bobbi Erhart manages to tug at your heart strings and make you laugh without self-conscious ploys or the strained sophistication a lot of auto-biographical humourists employ. She's true blue and the most effective (and funny) passages come when she nails the art of truthful and even self-exposing observation. The passages where she talks about her love affair with cheesecake is one of the best "battle with the bulge" expositions in ANY book. The stories about her quirky customers are fascinating and I can attest to the reality of some of the ones which describe local celebrities as I live in the town she fictionally describes as "Gunbark, Montana" -- What a great book. As an extra treat there are recipes at the end of the book and even a unique use for a dishwasher. I was sad when there were no more pages left.
If you are looking for a clear, warm and honest example of 'truth is stranger than fiction' -- look no further than this collection of stories from behind the check-stand.
I will never think of the supermarket in the same way again! I'm looking forward to her next book.