The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a temporary ARC of the book. Reviews are up and down the stars range for this book, and it's easy to understand why. But I am firmly on the positive side, and would love to see more from the author. (Even though I extremely dislike reading books that are written in first-person-present-tense.) The author's beautiful descriptive prose wins me over.
Esme is a young graduate student who has won a scholarship from Columbia and moves to New York. She immediately falls for Mitchell, a controlling, older, sexually predatory, rich, handsome man--and it's giving nothing away to say she has a hard time letting go of him, and this is the major flaw of the book. One day she discovers she's pregnant. He dumps her. Will she get an abortion? He decides he wants her back, he dumps her, he decides he wants her back, he dumps her, etc. Even though she knows he's no good for her, she loves him. And I keep reading the book, because even though I get very impatient with her, she does have other stuff going on.
For this is a love story in more ways than one. It's a love letter to Art with a capital A, and the beauty of light changing and dancing with shadow through the day. It's a love letter to New York, the symbol of "making it," the giant city, the Promised Land to every artist, writer, actor, designer in their teen years. (Some of that Mitchell story could have gone to more about friendship, which does play a big part in the story, but gets short shrift in Esme's telling. But then, more verisimilitude--youth!). It's also a love letter to bookstores and books, as the keepers of knowledge and beauty that help us grow out of our mistakes, and the friendships we make there and the bits of other people's lives we see through our customers--to all the relationships that help us throw off being the thrall to our young adult hormones and grow up.
The plot of the story continues--Esme decides to keep the baby early on, she gets illegal employment at the used bookstore where she's started to hang out, she makes her way through pregnancy and school. And the bookstore comforts her, nurtures her, teaches her--the womb that's birthing her to be an unexpected Esme, a young mother, a person making hard choices, an adult. The bookstore is where the real love story happens.
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