Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill - Abbi Waxman

Summary:  Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own...shell.  The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, and a cat named Phil.  If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind his innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified.  They all live close by!  They are all -- or mostly all -- excited to meet her!  She will have to...Speak. To. Strangers.  And as if that was not enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her.  Does he not realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options:

1.  Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)

2.  Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee.)

3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth.  (Already doing it.)

It is time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she is not convinced real life could ever live up to fiction.  It is going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was clearly written about me.  Okay, so not me exactly, but Nina Hill comes pretty darn close.    

Ways that Nina Hill is just like me:

  • She loves books and all things book-related. (Uh, hello.  Me!)
  • She thrives on having a plan and making lists.  (Check!)
  • She struggles with social anxiety. (Ditto)
  • She values her alone time (with comfy pjs and a good book). (Duh.  Me!)
  • She's got auburn hair. (Gingers unite!)
  • She regularly converses with her cat. (I talk to my animals all the time.)

Ways that Nina Hill is unlike me:

  • She is single.  I am married.
  • She is childless.  I have kiddos.
  • She works at a bookstore. I no longer work at a bookstore *cue muffled sobs*
  • Oh, and she inherited an entire family in all its convoluted glory when the father she didn't even know she had died and named her in his will.  

See what I mean? We're basically twins.  Aside from the whole dead dad, new family thing, it was almost like I was reading about myself in some type of parallel universe.  Nina's is utterly bookish, quirky and introverted, with a tendency to say the wrong thing in social situations.  If anything, her anxiety is the major antagonist of the book.  Here's a little bit of what I mean:

People were...exhausting.  They made her anxious.  Leaving her apartment every morning was the turning over of a giant hourglass, the mental energy she'd stored up overnight eroding grain by grain.  She refueled during the day by grabbing moments of solitude and sometimes felt her life was a long-distance swim between islands of silence.  She enjoyed people -- she really did -- she just needed to take them in homeopathic doses; a little of the poison was the cure.  

Those who face a similar hurdle in their own lives will find a kindred spirit in Nina, and hear some of their own thoughts and feelings echoed on the page.  There were several moments that resonated with me personally, and not just the anxiety-riddled ones.  

One of my favorite aspects of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was that I got to slide back into that book world and hang out for a while.  Knight's bookstore felt like home.  As a book lover, I thoroughly appreciated all the literary references and as a former bookstore employee, I felt a shared sense of solidarity with Nina  as she dealt with certain customers and handled the kind of odd situations that can only crop up in a bookstore.

Nina and her romantic interest were awkwardly adorable and the writing was humorous and sprinkled with fun nods to pop culture.  I laughed out loud a lot while reading -- so much that my teenage daughter actually commented on it. Sometimes I forced myself to stop and reread a sentence or paragraph because it was especially clever or insightful and I wanted to take the time fully appreciate it. The ending was satisfying in a totally Hallmark way (and I really like Hallmark movies).  I learned a delicious new word (ineluctable: adjective, unable to be resisted or avoided; synonyms: inevitable or inescapable). Overall, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill made for an entertaining, romantic escapist read.  While I don't plan to read it again, I definitely enjoyed my time with it.

My Rating: 4 Stars.

For the Sensitive Reader: There is some profanity (under 10, I'd wager).  Some sexual commentary and implied sex, but never explicit.  Some crude humor.  One character is homosexual, though that doesn't really come into play.  

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