When Angela Davis-Gardner first published her novel Plum Wine, with a university press and a 1,000-copy-first-print run, she had little hope that it would go on to sell tens of thousands of copies. But thanks to the dogged handselling efforts of Nancy Olson, owner of the wonderful Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC it did just that. Plum Wine tells the story of Barbara Jefferson, an American woman living in Tokyo. When her surrogate mother Michi, dies, she leaves behind plum wine bottles wrapped in rice paper. On these pieces of paper is calligraphy that tells the story of Michi's life, from the early 20th century through World War II. Barbara meets a translator who not only helps her to decode the story that the bottles hold, but becomes her intimate, forbidden companion as well.
Olson sold 1,200 copies of Plum Wine in her store alone (the only book her store has sold more of is Charles Frazier's New York Times bestseller Cold Mountain). If it ended there, it would be an amazing story. But Olson reached out to Kaye Gibbons' literary agent and helped Davis-Gardner get representation that led to a major publishing house picking up rights to Plum Wine, plus her two previous out-of-print novels, Felice and Forms of Shelter, along with the novel that she's writing now.
From its description, Plum Wine sounds like a natural for book groups, along the lines of Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Read an excerpt here and here is the reading group guide. Visit Angela Davis-Gardner's website here. For more detail on the story of Plum Wine's success, read the News & Observer article. And if you decide to buy the book online, why not buy it from the Quail Ridge website here.