Books about libraries or bookstores are usually a go-to for me, something I usually love because their subject matter is something so dear to my heart. The Bookshop of Yesterdays sounded like it would surely be among that sort, after the main character, Miranda, inherits a bookstore from her uncle. Sad circumstances, surely, but inheriting a bookstore could provide an interesting backdrop for a literary journey.
While reading the actual book, however, I found that the actual experience wasn’t really all that pleasant.
Published: 12 June 2018
Publisher: Park Row
A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.
Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy–and one final scavenger hunt.
When Miranda returns home to Los Angeles and to Prospero Books–now as its owner–she finds clues that Billy has hidden for her inside novels on the store’s shelves, in locked drawers of his apartment upstairs, in the name of the store itself. Miranda becomes determined to save Prospero Books and to solve Billy’s last scavenger hunt. She soon finds herself drawn into a journey where she meets people from Billy’s past, people whose stories reveal a history that Miranda’s mother has kept hidden–and the terrible secret that tore her family apart.
Bighearted and trenchantly observant, The Bookshop of Yesterdays is a lyrical story of family, love and the healing power of community. It’s a love letter to reading and bookstores, and a testament to how our histories shape who we become.
Rating: 3 Stars
It was difficult to like the main character, Miranda. She continually had this air of selfishness. She was always barging ahead, wanting to know her family’s secrets, regardless of how much it was hurting her mother (Susan) and how much these were her mother’s own secrets (and, thus, her right to tell or not). There were also moments like this where Miranda seemed utterly baffled when someone (her mother or her boyfriend, Jay) didn’t react in a way that would make her feel better. She expected the world to revolve around her and as a nearly 30 year old person, this made her an infuriating character to have to view the story through. What redemption was there for her?
What could, in theory, be called the romance aspects of the book were not enjoyable in the least. Miranda is, technically, involved with a man named Jay from the beginning of the novel. There was so little chemistry between Miranda & Jay throughout the book as to make their “relationship” irrelevant. Then, however, there was a drunken, cruel phone call introduced that one can only assume is meant to make the reader sympathetic to Miranda’s situation when, really, it highlights how poor the two of them have been treating each other.
It seemed such a poor choice, especially when coupled with Miranda’s interaction with the manager of Prospero Books, another “love interest” (if he could be called that). Basically, no one made good choices here and it was so frustrating because it didn’t feel like the author was intending for these characters to be so unlikeable, but that’s what they were. I felt no sympathy for anyone’s romantic situation, more bafflement than anything.
Something that was interesting was the way that the author played with memory. I wasn’t sure at first if it was intentional. I thought perhaps it was a continuity error, but by the end I think there are a few examples of the author playing with not only a somewhat unreliable narrator, but other characters who misremember “facts” that they relate to Miranda.
One of the biggest problems I had, however, affected the tone of the book from fairly early on. At around the 17% point, the author tipped her hand and revealed what I would say is basically the answer to the “secret” of the entire book. There was a conversation between Miranda and her mother regarding Billy, the former owner of Prospero Books, that was quite significant and, like I said, it affected the tone of the rest of the book. There was then almost no tension regarding Miranda’s search, this quest that seemed to supposedly be her main point. It was such a disappointment.
I’m a bit conflicted about The Bookshop of Yesterdays overall. The people in it that were the focus of the book were not particularly nice people to read about, especially since readers are seeing the events of the book through their eyes. The writing was not truly awful, so it’s not a thoroughly unenjoyable read. I just find it hard to find anyone in this book to root for that’s actually present in the book and isn’t talked about off page.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.
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