I picked this book up on a whim, having no idea what it was about or who Stuart McLean was. I'm glad I made such a foolish purchase.
This book (which is a collection of short stories) is the third in the Vinyl Cafe series, following the lives of a "simple" family from Toronto; husband Dave, wife Morley, and kids Stephanie and Sam. Dave owns a used record store (the Vinyl Cafe, who's motto is "We may not be big, but we're small"). Morley works in theatre. They have a dog, they have a cat, they have quirky neighbours; they have a normal life.
The book, however, is anything but normal. Instead of simply plodding along, the book gives us strong comedic stories about universal things that uncondescendingly give a message or moral.
"Love Never Ends" is a touching story about a letter Dave receives from the widow of a man who knew growing up. It sounds like weak material, but you'll either be smiling or crying when you finish. "The Fly" sees Dave swallow one after throwing a chain letter away... and doing whatever he can to get it out of him. "Christmas Presents" follows the family through the Christmas season, as they try to make gifts for each other... with varying results.
The best may be "Harrison Ford's Toes", in where Morley finds an old Tamagotchi she was supposed to give Sam for Christmas a few years before. She decides to hide it from Dave when he comes in the room, too ashamed to admit she'd lost it and forgot about it. She pretends to be reading a magazine with Harrison Ford on the cover and makes a silly comment about how perfect Harrison Ford's Toes are. Let's just say that over the next few days, Dave tries his best to get his toes to look better than Mr. Ford's, and that when Morley begins to spend a bit too much time with the Tamagotchi.
I recomend this book to literally anyone who likes to read. It's the kind of book for all of us who've ever tried to toilet train our cat, or has ever had the sprinklers go off during a Christmas pageant, or has ever worried about their son's knitting habit. Go buy it. Enjoy.