I just want to start by saying that, although this book review is gifted, I would have written a book review on this book anyway because it was just amazing. It really was.
To give a brief summary, The Shop Before Life revolves around the idea that there is a “prelife” before we enter Earth. Humans are born into the “prelife” first, where they choose what character traits they would like, from an arrangement of jars labelled “smart” or “inquisitive” or “brave” and many more. They pick these traits up at The Shop, before taking them into Earth, where they are born as a baby with these traits intact.
Faythe is one of the few people who decides to live in the “prelife”, before heading off to Earth. That is until she gets hired as the new Apprentice at The Shop. She has so many questions about the traits, how they were made, and how The Shop started – questions which no one will answer. But she resolves to find out.
I loved this book simply because of the concept – I was drawn in straight away by the characters, whom are unique but also relatable in their own way. However, it was the connection this book made with the real world that really got to me. This wasn’t just a novel about the world Neil Hughes created himself; it commented on human life as a whole – the way we think, the way we feel, and why we do the things we do, even if our actions seem incomprehensible.
I think the idea of picking traits is so typical of human nature – we see others with certain qualities and we naturally want them for ourselves, because we have this notion of the perfect human, or at the very least a perfect version of ourselves. We often don’t know who we are but we know who we want to become, and a lot of the time we don’t actually know how to get there. I thought it was interesting how this picking of traits in the book acts as a solution to this, whilst simultaneously not providing a solution at all. I guess humans need weird illogical systems to function.
I don’t want to give any spoilers in this review, because I really do think everyone should read this book and figure it all out for themselves, but, I can say, that this book really does reflect on the power and importance of belief. There was something about it that I just connected with. Perhaps it’s because I’m at a moment in my life where I’ve been working hugely on my confidence – I’ve realised that belief in myself really does go a long way – but also because the only way life moves forward is due to belief. No one has any idea what they are doing, as is reiterated numerous times in the book, but by believing we make changes to move forward in our lives anyway. Without belief, we would all be sitting back and feeling sorry for ourselves, and that doesn’t get us anywhere. The Shop Before Life is like a reminder that we can attract anything if we really believe we can do it, similar to the notion of the law of attraction.
I feel like some of the points I’m making here might not make full sense if you haven’t read it, but if you’re intrigued by my ramblings and want to understand more about the topic, then I guess you’ll have to read the book then!
There are so many good things I can say about The Shop Before Life because I feel like it really does focus on some of the most interesting questions about humanity and the universe. As someone who is a huge fan of philosophical topics of conversation, I loved this element of the book and I think that’s what made it so great to me – that the characters and subjects it raised existed beyond the book itself. And I think the greatest books are those that remain in your mind as you step back into everyday life, changing the way you see and understand things.
This is one of those books that I’m sure will stay with me for a while, if not for the rest of my life. There’s just something so unique and real about it and I just felt very connected to the themes it presented.
I thought I’d end this book review with a few quotes, if I haven’t convinced you of its greatness already.
“Why should we remain within the limits we are given?”
“Perhaps you’ve realised that not everybody is interested in how the universe works. To me, it always seemed unambitious to simply accept how the world is, without asking questions.”
“That you choose is more important than what you choose.”
“…consuming is trivial, and it’s creation that’s the real magic.”
Go check out the book on Amazon here!
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