The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler has been on my to-read list for a while and I was able to snag a ninety-nine cent Kindle copy from Amazon a few weeks ago. I don’t know why I put off reading this book for so long because this is a story that felt immediately comfortable to me and gave me the warm fuzzies. It’s hard not to love about a book that centers around a hole-in-the-wall bookstore and a young woman trying to find herself and gracefully navigate her way through a life changing decision (aka a bouncing bundle of joy) while in the confounding glimmering bubble that is New York.
I appreciate that the main character, Esme, is polite, tentative, curious, and in tune to the quirks and nuances of her down-to-earth male co-workers and blue-blood beau. Esme internally observes and savors all of the beautiful and painfully difficult moments she experiences but instead of being bitter and lashing out at some of the hands she’s been dealt, she somehow makes her way through and carries on with her head held high. And I admire that about her character.
What I didn’t admire about the story was that her beau, Mitchell, was a whiny, pathetic, self-absorbed narcissist who put himself and his good family name above all else. It was frustrating to following along with how cold and calculated he treated Esme. I was repeatedly thinking “get rid of him!”. He treats her horrible yet she seems to do nothing about it, almost as though she doesn’t deserve better. She was wistful to hold on to the jagged edges of something that was not quite a relationship but more of a casual acquaintance with the occasional booty-call. It was difficult to watch her struggle to kick her Mitchell addiction and I found myself hoping she would start to open up to Luke, one of her co-workers who seemed to genuinely care about her but who didn’t quite know how to go about his feelings.
While dealing with my real-life disdain for Mitchell (I felt myself getting heart palpitations from my anger at his fictional existence), I was also truly bored following along with her pregnancy. I wished her luck and all but babies don’t do it for me. I really wish the book had focused on Esme and her new life with the folks at The Owl minus fetus. That whole underlining plot line was boring and tedious to read.
Overall, I’ve probably give this book 3 stars. It was enjoyable, I liked the author’s writing style, and I admired Esme’s character. But I didn’t enjoy the interwoven plot lines of both Mitchell and her pregnancy – these were frustrating and repetitive to read. I wanted more bookstore action! I wanted to know more about her new co-workers and her relationships with them! I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
A few of my favorite quotes:
“I am not sure that there is a choice, or that there are ever choices. Everything that has happened leads up to the next thing. It can look like a choice, but the way we fall is always determined by what went before. So we can’t choose.”
“Used” is such an odd word, so much stranger than “secondhand.” A prefix for condoms, and there’s a certain squalor attached to the idea of reusing those. “Used books,” as if someone else has had the best of them and you get the sere husk, or the lees, as if a book isn’t the one thing, the one product, that is forever new. There’s no such thing as a used book. Or there’s no such thing as a book if it’s not being used.”
“I say it, and even speaking such a dream is to offer it up for taint. As long as it is secret, closed, full of blood, it is inviolable. Now I’ve presented it for piercing.”
“I sink into the remembered and revived fascination of it as into plumped silk cushions—as soon as you look hard at almost anything, it becomes interesting. It is only when we skim along on the surface that things seem boring, in the same way that a train journey across farmlands can be dull, compared to the minute noticing we can do if we walk. We can do better, at any rate, than worry eternally about our personal relationships.”