Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Book Lover - Maryann McFadden

Summary: When Lucinda Barret's husband destroys her life in a shocking betrayal, she's left with nothing but one last dream -- to be an author.  Alone and broke, she sets out on a thousand mile journey to get her novel into the hands of readers -- one bookstore at a time.

Ruth Hardaway knows all about shattered dreams.  For the last thirty years she's devoted her life to her store, The Book Lover, trying to bury her painful past.  But now the store is in jeopardy, and the past is catching up with her.

When Ruth discovers Lucy's novel, she takes Lucy under her wing, even offering her the haven of an unused lake cabin.  She asks one small favor in return -- for Lucy to keep an eye on her son, Colin, who's recovering from an injury during the Iraq war.  As the two women grow closer, Lucy begins to think of Ruth as the mother she's always wished for.  For Ruth, Lucy is the one person she can finally confide her secrets.  Or so she thinks.

As each woman begins to face her past, happiness finally seems within their grasp.  But neither has any idea that their toughest decisions lie ahead.  Or that their friendship is about to fall apart because of a little white lie.  (Summary from book - Image from www.maryannmcfadden.com - Book given free for an honest review)

My Review:  I used to work at an independent bookstore when I was in college.  The pay wasn’t fabulous and inventory was a beast, but the books...oh the books!   I adored my job.  Eventually, I moved away and became a full-time stay-at-home mom, but one of the things that I missed most about book selling was the satisfaction of being able to help customers find that perfect book – the one that just knocked their socks off and had them coming back for more.  The Book Lover is a charming novel that will pluck at the heartstrings of writers, booksellers, and book lovers; it is a love letter to the independent bookstore and a message of support to struggling authors everywhere.

It should come as no surprise that I fell deeply in love with the book-selling aspect of this story.  I wanted to crawl into its pages and become an employee at Ruth’s bookstore, The Book Lover, which possessed a welcoming atmosphere, loyal clientele, devoted employees, and even a helpful ghost named Hazel.  Ruth’s passion for books reminded me of my good friend and former boss, Claudia, whose love of reading borders on the psychotic, but endearing.  Someone who isn’t familiar with the joys of book selling might feel overwhelmed by all the book love floating around this novel, but I felt quite comfortably at home. 

As an amateur book reviewer, I’ve had the pleasure of reading some fine self-published works, but I’ve also had the unpleasant task of reviewing some real stinkers.   The writing and publishing processes explored in The Book Lover were intriguing and illuminating.  I will admit that I hadn’t realized how much blood, sweat, and tears were invested in many of the books that get sent my way, or how my reviews might affect the author.  

The one component of this book that felt “off” was the incorporation of bird rehabilitation into the storyline.  I understand that it helped reinforce the metaphor for healing, freedom, etc. but other times I felt the author spent too much time on the insignificant details when I wanted to be back in the bookshop. 

The author successfully depicted the difficulties that aspiring authors and independent booksellers face everyday because of her own personal experiences and additional research.  She understood Lucy’s frustration and the the plight of the self-published author because, not that long ago, she was one.  Her perspective opened my eyes to the struggles writers face as they attempt to break into a difficult industry.  I was impressed by the authenticity of her characters, their motivations, and her portrayal of the book industry.  Overall, this was a book that I read with a sense of quiet contentment; it didn’t arouse me to extreme emotion, but it did send me back and give me a new perspective.

Sidenote/Spoiler:  For those of you who worry about endings (and the happiness of them), I will tell you that this book had a Nicholas Sparks-ish kind of ending – not the super-sad-make-you-want-to-throw-your-book kind, but the happily-ever-after-slightly-melodramatic kind.  I liked it.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive readers:  Profanity and a few sexual situations, brief and intimate but not terribly graphic.

Sum it up:  A book that will appeal to authors, book sellers, and book lovers.  

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