Snapshots at St. Arbucks: Book Review


Within minutes of meeting some people you know you have found a kindred soul, a new “tribe” member, a person who shares so much of your outlook that you know time and distance can’t erase your friendship. I have been blessed by several of those in my life, including one with whom I’ve lost contact. Seems impossible not to be able to find someone in this digital age, but i can’t find Denise, one of my bridesmaids.

Recently I “met” another tribe member of mine, R.G. Ryan. He wrote a book called “Snapshots at St. Arbucks.” Having wandered across Coffee Shop Journal, he contacted me via comments and email. He recognized the kinship as well. We are a rare group, R.G. and me. We are the people who sit at Starbucks and watch the rest of you. We know your stories, even if we’ve made them up on the evidence available. We see life stories in your stories. I share them here, and R.G. shares them on both is blog and in his amazing, wonderful, makes-me-cry-and-laugh book. Go to the sidebar now and click Snapshots to buy it. Then come back and read the rest of this review.

Snapshots at St. Arbucks is just what I’ve described: R.G.’s observations during his time spent at Starbucks. Sometimes he is joined by his beloved bride, sometimes his his “disgustingly good-looking African-American friend.” Sometimes he is joined by the people nearby as life’s little dramas are played out — as they are — around him. R.G. captures it all: the desperate husband landing the job he needed so much, the doggies wars on the patio, the littlest Starbucks fans trying to make their little voices heard. He writes in short vignettes. And running through all his St. Arbucks wanderings is the message of hope, purpose, God’s love and man’s love. R.G. used to be an L.A. record producer, and his background leads to a creative approach to life around him. I tried — very hard — to savor this book slowly, like a friend you only meet for coffee once every week or so. It didn’t work. I stopped into Jeremy’s Starbucks (seemed appropriate) and downed this book in one sitting. I just looked a little weird sniffling once in awhile.

I’ll share one of my favorite lessons from R.G. today (though I suspect there are more to come!). R.G., his wife, Eddie and his wife are all sitting at a Starbucks enjoying music during a weekend trip. The problem was, the music was grating on their nerves. As they got up to go, the band took a break. One of the members recognized R.G., who had signed him as part of a band much earlier in life. Now, this band member was playing with pick-up players in Starbucks, his dream of the big time obviously long gone. To R.G., this man was now obviously empty, used up, without that spark of life in his eyes. This made R.G. think about his own life.

“He was once young and filled with dreams and a fierce ambition. In fact at the time I produced their demo the dreams were still very much alive.”

Cheri knows me well enough to understand where I was going.

“And now he’s empty?”

Yeah, but it’s a different kind of empty. There’s an empty that comes from being poured out,” I glanced at Eddie, “Like at the end of a really good show where you’ve given it all you had.”

Sylvie said hurriedly, “Let me take a crack at this. The other kind of empty is the one where life has just sucked it all out of you to the point that there’s nothing left.”

That passage hit me like a ton of bricks. So many times I do feel as if I am empty, poured out and dry. But I know that most of the time (not always) it is because I’ve chosen to give it all I had. The alternative is to be empty because it’s all sucked out of you. Not much of a choice, is it? R.G. encouraged me in just those few words to keep on giving, keep on pouring. Thanks, R.G..

I loved this book immediately, like an old friend. It’s not getting filed on my bookshelves; it’s opened almost every day. I can’t imagine higher praise.

Here is the link to R.G.’s site:

By Marla Saunders

I am passionately devoted to living my life in the places God has given me. Over the years those places have changed: from homeschooler to businesswoman, from consumer to storyteller. These days I’m focusing on building a new business and figuring out what it means to do everything with integrity and informed by faith.