I sort of liked this book, until the 88% mark, at which the narrative took a turn that I found unredeemably distasteful. Until then, my thoughts about the book: This is a mildly interesting, if a little maudlin, romance about a grumpy lover of literary fiction (AJ) who is saved by love for the amazingly well-behaved and highly intelligent orphan (Maya) and the quirky bookseller (Amy). There’s an obvious bad guy caricature in the successful author (Daniel), who is a womanizing drunk, and his long-suffering and understandably bitter wife (Ismay) is AJ’s dead wife’s sister. The entire book (even the essay penned by one of the characters) is written in present tense, which serves no purpose other than to annoy me, but at least it’s in third person. None of the plot twists or big reveals were especially clever or surprising. Altogether, a three-star read, even with the long, drawn-out drama of the final chapters, which I suppose are meant to have the reader going through boxes of kleenexes. Or pressed linen handkerchiefs, given the fondness for vintage clothes.
I’m burying the part that dropped this into the 2 star range for me under spoiler tags:
The backstory of what happened to Maya’s mother. Not that she was a fan of Daniel’s writing, or that they slept together and she got pregnant, or that he refused to acknowledge any responsibility for it, or that he never seemed concerned about her or his daughter. That’s just the tired old trope that goes along with his womanizing drunken author caricature. It was the dismissive way the narrative treated her. First the slut-shaming, that “she knew what she was doing” in sleeping with a married man, then excusing Ismay’s culpability in her death as it was understandably painful that she had to deal with the slut asking for money for her husband’s bastard child, when his own wife kept miscarrying and was cash-poor because all her money was invested in their fancy house. So Ismay steals a valuable book from AJ, then knowingly puts the young woman at risk of criminal charges by giving her unsellable stolen property to sell. Then she just shrugs and tells her to get lost when the girl finds out. So she (rightly) feels guilty that the desperate young woman committed suicide and her orphaned child was left in a bookstore, but then is absolved with the logic of, oh, well, it turned out for the best, since Maya had a pretty good life being raised by AJ instead of her own mother, and is credited for “saving” AJ’s life by giving him a reason to stop being a self-pitying drunk. “The End”, as far as the dead husband-thieving slut is concerned. Then we get another 50 minutes of glurge where AJ sells the book that contributed to Maya’s mother’s death, so he has the money to cover medical treatment, then rambles on about life and love and lessons for his daughter while he’s dying. Maya never finds out the true story of her mother, because it’s better to conceal her godmother’s selfish cruelty than for her to know something of the woman who birthed her and tried her best to care for her for the first two years of her life. Because it all turned out for the best, right?
Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Scott Brick gives a fine performance. I picked this book up on the recommendation of a co-worker, who loved it.