Behind the Naugahyde embodies a story of the shenanigans, escapades, and life’s little absurdities in the retail world of an independent shoe store. Told through emails, blog posts, artifactual evidence, letters, shift reports, and scene fiction, the story moves at the fast pace of competitive footwear retail. Behind the Naugahyde is filled with side-splitting tales of the outlandish games and disastrous consequences of boredom at the workplace and a voyeuristic look into the “secret” correspondence of the head honchos. Readers who enjoyed David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family In Denim and Corduroy and Chuck Palahniuk’s narrative structure in Diary will find themselves enamored with Behind the Naugahyde as well. Edgy and inspiringly honest, Behind the Naugahyde is laugh-out-loud funny in places and over-the-top ridiculous in others, with romance and disaster threaded throughout.
Suddenly the small world of an independent, old-fashioned, special needs shoe store is turned upside-down. Two long-time sales associates, struggling to make it through college, are finally promoted to assistant managers and must negotiate the store’s politics. Donna and Jackie squeeze shoes onto the melon feet of picky customers just like always, but discover it isn’t as easy to control sales associates as they lie, scheme, and cheat customers in torrential drama. Trouble hits when Donna falls in love with the worst of the sales associates just as Jackie is pushing to have him fired. Their boss is equal parts clueless and prophetic, but all too eager to hand over the most questionable of tasks. The creative duo must manage not only the store, but their friendship, love lives, and dreams all while playing insane shoe games, pulling outrageous pranks, and taking incriminating photos as a gift for the boss.
Not since Clerks has there been such a behind-the-scenes look at the lunacy of the retail world. The idiosyncrasies of human nature are in full force when purchasing shoes and the assistant managers spare no details in their personal correspondence regarding their shifts each day. What a manager is thinking when they make the decisions that could ultimately result in the customer’s favorite line, “I’ll never shop here again,” is no longer a secret. Behind the Naugahyde also shows just how far an employee can push before getting fired and the limits a boss can push before his valued employees walk out the door. What makes Behind the Naugahyde different is the deep honesty of these factors that delight rather than instruct.
Geared toward an audience of those gaining life experience, the novel draws in anyone who has ever had to work a job to make ends meet until their dream job hit. Retail workers, customer service associates, college students, and humor enthusiasts alike will all enjoy the tongue-in-cheek narrative in Behind the Naugahyde, and anyone who has ever shopped for shoes will love this insider’s view.
What started out as a business correspondence soon developed into a hilarious depiction of life at the store. We found ourselves laughing out loud while reading one another’s version of the daily events and couldn’t keep the story to ourselves. As an English major studying to become a schoolteacher and a creative writing major, we put our minds together to complete the fictional Behind the Naugahyde.
The book is currently in rough manuscript form and undergoing editing.
Jennifer Lamb & Ashley Shaffier