by Susan Wiggs
Publication Date: September 16, 2020
Heartbroken Natalie Harper inherits her mother’s charming, cash-strapped bookshop and finds herself the carer for her ailing grandfather Andrew. She thinks it’s best to move him to an assisted-living home to ensure his care, but to pay for it, Natalie will have to sell up the bookshop. However, Grandpa Andrew owns the building and refuses to budge.
Moving into the studio apartment above the shop, Natalie hires a contractor, Peach Gallagher, to do some repairs. His young daughter becomes a regular at the shop, and she and Natalie begin reading together while Peach works. Slowly, Natalie’s sorrow begins to dissipate as her life becomes an unexpected journey of new friendships. From unearthing hidden artifacts in the bookshop’s walls, to learning the truth about her family, the bookshop is full of surprises. Can Natalie reveal her own heart’s desire and turn a new page…?
I’m in a general fiction sort of reading mood, and this book, my second attempt, was much better than the first (The Last Bookshop in London). Although, it didn’t start out that way; this book is broken down into 6 parts and the first part is absolutely wretched. The writing is solid, but the story is wretched.
Once the story moves into part 2, it becomes a more enjoyable read. Natalie starts moving forward, Peach (sorry, I don’t care if you do look like a pirate, that nickname is ridiculous) starts working on the building and things move forward, albeit slowly. This is a sedately paced story, though there are intermittent moments that are fun, like when they find stuff hidden in a wall, or out in an old shed. The history of families, and of San Francisco, are threads that run through the book, woven through the plot, becoming pivotal to the resolution. I’ve only ever spent a day in San Francisco, but I swear the bookstore in this story was smack in the middle of our self-created walking tour, as I kept recognising landmarks and places the author dropped into the text, an occurrence I always enjoy.
Overall, an enjoyable read if you can get past the first part and like a general fiction sort of book. It has a happy ending and there’s a very small but potent romance that takes almost the entire book to develop. I’m not altogether sure Andrew’s altruism is entirely realistic; I’d like to believe it’s possible but given the pressure the author puts him and Natalie under, it’s sadly improbable. Still, I like books that show us our best possible selves (penchant for murder mysteries aside), so it didn’t really hinder my ability to buy into the story, although it did occur to me that by the end, around the clock security would probably be necessary to ward off the treasure hunters.