Estates Large and Small

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Praise for Estates Large and Small

“This wry novel follows a struggling used bookstore owner and Grateful Dead fan as he grudgingly moves his store online, decides to teach himself two millenniums of Western philosophy, falls in love and attempts to pin down the point of life.”

New York Times Book Review

“Robertson’s novel is in many ways a meditation on disappearance. How do you read a work with the pre-emptive knowledge that it will end? How do you live in a city that has become unrecognizable before your eyes? How do you love somebody whose future does not include a summer beyond the one in which you find yourself so magically entwined? Sinking deeper into these existential questions, as Estates Large and Small does, scrapes away a sheltering layer of existence, bringing the reader into closer proximity to both joy and loss. Musing about his profession, Phil at one point says, “I was only renting my books.” Indeed, Ray Robertson asks us to think about life as a rental, and to make the best out of it before our lease runs out.”

–Literary Review of Canada

“Robertson strategically demonstrates his wealth of philosophical knowledge as he weaves a truly authentic love story that’s new and refreshing . . . [Estates Large and Small] doesn’t provide the direct answer to life’s fundamental questions, but it does remind us to embrace the journey [and] takes you on a rollercoaster of heartwarming and melancholic moments that will leave you contemplating what your own journey is and how you can make the most of your life.”

White Wall Review

“Estates Large and Small will break your heart in the best possible way. Smart, sad, and witty, it’s a rumination on what makes us human and what makes a life worth living. And it is a warm love letter to Toronto and to bookselling. [The] side characters in this book are so finely etched that you swear you have met every one of them.

But it is Caroline who is the real revelation in this story. Smart, wise, and full of agency, she is in full control of her destiny. Robertson manages a deft tight-rope walk, depicting her as strong and centered while avoiding turning her into some latter-day version of Gone With the Wind’s Melanie Hamilton. She knows what she needs and is not afraid to be brusque to get it. There is not a trace of the maudlin on these pages.

The story has the warmest, most bittersweet ending a reader could wish for. Booksellers, if you can get through the last chapter without sobbing, you might want to check your pulse. Estates Large and Small does what all good literature should—it makes you feel.”

–Grace Notes (Mac’s Backs-Books on Coventry, Cleveland, Ohio)

“One of the best books of 2022.”

Bookin’ with Jason Jeffries

“Estates Large and Small . . . teaches everything anyone would ever need to know, while making you laugh and breaking your heart in equal measure. Ray Robertson has an unwavering morality and like a lot of smart people, he’s really, really funny. This is my favourite of the year so far.”

49th Shelf

“Robertson’s wry humour has become a hallmark of his style, even — especially? — when he’s writing about some of the more difficult things in life: death, disease, purpose. Equally a hallmark is a preoccupation with philosophy, which he explores in ways that are accessible and edgy.”

Toronto Star

“Deftly crafted and memorable characters, a narrative storyline laced with humor and acute observation, Estates Large and Small will have a special appeal to readers with an appreciation of psychological and urban-life fiction–as well as all dedicated bibliophiles who enjoy the theme of bookselling.”

Midwest Book Review

“Robertson likes to tell a story in his novels that get his readers thinking about their own lives. He’s hit the mark again with Estates Large and Small.”

Chatham Daily News

“The life of a middle-aged used bookseller in Toronto might not sound like promising fictional material, but in Estates Large and Small, Canadian novelist and critic Ray Robertson provides a warmhearted and unconventional love story that’s also an opportunity for a gentle encounter with some of life’s fundamental questions . . .. . With Phil’s droll humor and world-weary cynicism, and Caroline’s clear-eyed determination to live her final days on her own terms, the two make for an appealing couple. Like the philosophers they encounter, Estates Large and Small only hints at answers to life’s deepest mysteries, but it’s a wise reminder that the journey is really the point.”

Shelf Awareness

“[W]onderfully ragged, wise and defiantly exuberant . . . Ray Robertson’s sensibility, wit and heart carry Estates Large and Small effortlessly . . . Robertson excels at writing complete, flawed, entirely memorable characters. His ninth novel is his best yet, and my favourite for the year thus far.”

Words Worth Books, Waterloo, Ontario

“What a book! I loved it!”

—Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, Washington

“A funny, thoughtful, and heartbreaking love letter to the power of books and reading, Estates Large and Small is Robertson doing what he does best – asking probing questions about why and how we can best live and understand ourselves and one another. “

Open Book

“Some novels are fast food, while others are the real meal deal—to be savoured, enjoyed, considered between courses, and recommended. Veteran Toronto writer Ray Robertson’s latest deserves the accolade of value for time and money spent.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“To call Estates Large and Small a love story is both accurate and insufficient. Yes, it features a romantic relationship—Phil and Caroline are indeed in love. But to describe it as a ‘love story’ does not do justice to what Robertson has achieved in this book . . . Robertson is a very thoughtful, even philosophical writer. And though he is careful to keep his touch light, there is weight to much of what he says . . . Estates Large and Small is a thoughtful book that manages to make its serious existential themes both entertaining and, yes, hopeful.”

Ottawa Review of Books