Bookworm: Cool your heels with ‘If The Shoe Fits’

In Stephen King’s latest, the monster is real

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“If the Shoe Fits: A Meant to Be Novel”

  • By Julie Murphy
  • c. 2021, Hyperion
  • $26.99, $33.99 Canada; 304 pages

Your little toe hangs off the side. Urgh. Behind your ankle, your foot sticks out a half an inch, too, and you simply must face it: the sandals you lust after, the last pair marked down, are too small. Unlike Cinderella's sister, you can't cut off your toes. Maybe, as in the new novel “If The Shoe Fits” by Julie Murphy, you should just cool your heels awhile.

Taking care of preschool triplets is a great summer job.

“If the Shoe Fits: A Meant to Be Novel” by Julie Murphy.

On a plane from New York to L.A., Cindy Woods tried to tell herself that. It would be nice to see her little half-siblings. She missed her stepsisters and her stepmother, too, but it was hard to leave New York because all her dreams were there. At least they were, back when the world was hers for the taking; once she graduated from college with no job in sight, though, her hopes for a career in shoe design were dashed.

Caring for the triplets would at least be some sort of distraction, although not as good as the handsome distraction on the flight. That distraction flirted shamelessly with Cindy, and he admitted to having a thing for reality romance shows. Both surprised her: overweight her whole life, she wasn't used to the “Prince Charming” type flirting with her. And since her stepmother, Erica, was the producer of one of those shows, and since Cindy knew allllll about them, well, she figured everybody saw through the silliness.

Alas, the ratings of Erica's show needed a boost and a bold idea began to take place once Cindy arrived in L.A., one that secretly included her as contestant.

She couldn't say “NO” fast enough, until she thought a minute.

She wasn't the kind of girl that Before Midnight would normally have on-camera but being a contestant could put her shoe designs in front of a national audience. It might lead to a move back to New York City, and a job with a designer. It might lead to a great career.

It might lead to love.

From here until Labor Day, your schedule is packed. Last-minute this, shoehorned-in that, your brain doesn't have much room for reading, which is why you need “If the Shoe Fits.”

The easy thing to know about it is this: you already know how it ends. You do. Like any good fairy tale, there's a Happily-Ever-After that's promised and delivered, but not in a way that loses a reader's interest between meeting and true love. Author Julie Murphy ensures that you won't have to worry that the hero and heroine will lose their respective paths to bliss because this isn't that kind of book. Predictability is key here, characters, setting, and all, but it's exactly what you want in a romance.

Be aware that there's a touch of minor profanity here but it's realistically used and nothing you can't handle, so go ahead. Immerse yourself in a little escapism with a kiss. For you, “If the Shoe Fits” is sized just right.

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“Billy Summers”

  • By Stephen King
  • c. 2021, Scribner
  • $30, $39.99 Canada; 517 pages

It's all there: the Big Payout. But that's just one thing your check stub will tell you. You'll see how much you made this year, what you paid Uncle Sam, and what went into retirement. Your name's in one corner, your Social Security number in another, and – unlike in the new novel “Billy Summers” by Stephen King – it clearly says who you work for ...

“Billy Summers” author Stephen King.

He was really good at acting dumb. Nick and Frank and everybody thought that Billy Summers was empty between the ears, which is what Billy wanted them to think. The dumber they figured he was, the more they yakked, and the more Billy learned. Truth was, Billy wasn't your normal hired killer. He was sharp with more than just a gun, and he only killed bad men.

Eighteen of them, if you count every single one of them. Billy'd killed the man who killed his sister, he'd spent time in Iraq with the Marines, it all added up and it was time to retire. But then Nick dangled big money in front of him.

Two million dollars, for one shot. Billy had visions of a hammock on a beach. Two mill would last the rest of his life. It would be an easy shot, too, no matter which door the police used to bring the target into the courthouse. Sure, Billy'd have to cool his heels for a while, waiting for the right day, pretending to be someone he wasn't. But one shot? Two million?

“Billy Summers” by Stephen King.

Nick had a cover story all ready and as time went by, it seemed to work; nobody knew Billy was in town to kill a man. Nick also had an escape planned, for after the assassination, but the more Billy thought about that, the more it seemed too good.

Nick – or whoever was behind him – never meant for Billy to escape to Wisconsin after the shooting.

Nick never meant to pay Billy the money, either.

But after one bullet had done its job, Billy aimed to collect...

And now's the time to stretch your legs a bit. The next half of “Billy Summers” takes an unexpected turn and you won't be able to leave your seat once you dive back in.

At first, though, that turn may seem silly or, well, something like a 1960s TV drama. You might even “ugh” with disappointment but try to resist. At this point in the story, author Stephen King takes what may seem like a tired old story prod and he spiffs it up, modernizes it, and sends it across the country with vengeance in its heart. For a reader who's ready to go, that's irresistible, like having someone smash two related thrillers together, glue them tight, and strap them to a race car. What a ride!

Generally speaking, when one reads a King book, a monster is expected: an insane clown, a rabid dog, a killer car. In this novel, the monster is real. It's within one's self, as well as next door, and “Billy Summers” has the big payoff.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.