The Book Lover – Maryann McFadden
Three Women Press/2012
By Sheri de Grom
The Book Lover is Maryann McFadden’s third novel. Each read penned by McFadden is richer than the last.
I particularly love the author’s development of women of a certain age. She gives them full lives, the ability to make complex decisions for themselves, and success in leading a satisfying life—after the character arc has been completed, of course
The Book Lover provides the reader an instant love affair with an independently owned bookstore—a bookstore where everyone knows your name and provides suggestions for your reading pleasure if you can’t decide which book to choose. It’s also a bookstore where every employee is also a reader.
Remember the days of going into a bookstore and having a bookseller recommend a book that you absolutely must read and the staffer could actually give you a brief synopsis of what the book was about? The employee didn’t have to read the back cover. They knew the book.
The owner of McFadden’s bookstore is sixty-four year old Ruth Hardaway. A widow, she’s devoted the last thirty years of her life to the store.
Thirty-nine year old, Lucinda Barrett’s life falls apart. Her husband is sent to prison.
Lucinda’s one remaining dream is to become a published author. Her manuscript is rejected time and time again by agents and publishers alike. The rejection letters stack up. In anguish and frustration Lucinda (Lucy) self-publishes her novel.
Now what? She can’t leave the novels stacked in her dining room. Her designer home is being sold due to her husbands follies.
Lucy decides to set up her own book tour. She lives in Florida and, out of the fifty phone calls she makes, she receives one solid commitment from a book store owner who’s a thousand miles away.
To make the best out of what could turn out to be another costly mistake, Lucy decides to introduce the book herself to every bookstore she comes across on her drive north.
She learns on the first day of her drive that chain bookstores don’t welcome self-published books. Time and time again, Lucy is told no before she gets beyond her introductory sentence.
Maryann McFadden knows the world of writing, self-publishing, marketing, and writing. She subtly weaves into her story the intricacies of the business without weighing down the relationship of her characters.
A common thread for all the characters–many more than just Ruth and Lucy—is a willingness to move out of a place in their lives that they don’t like and becoming empowered to move forward.
We meet Ruth’s son, Colin. He’s an Iraq veteran and a paraplegic. He lives in a cabin at a nearby lake and volunteers at a wild bird sanctuary.
Ruth barely keeps the bookstore alive financially. She welcomes an opportunity to sell books at a prison that’s one-hundred miles away. Over time she meets Thomas, a convicted felon, and they carry on conversations about books and eventually begin writing each other. Ruth finds herself looking forward to the trips to the prison more than she thinks she should.
She keeps Thomas a secret from everyone, including her staff and children. What will she do when he’s released for time served?
Lucy doesn’t have plans after her book signing at Ruth’s store. She and Ruth are now friends and confidants. Ruth offers Lucy the use of her empty cabin at the lake. Ruth convinces Lucy she’d be doing her a favor. She wouldn’t worry about her son as much because the cabins are next door to each other.
White lies between Ruth and Lucy nearly end their relationship and the world crumbles around them. Lives become doomed. Losses are nightmarish. Characters believe their lives will never be the same.
I found myself telling any number of characters, “Come on get a grip!”
If you haven’t read a novel by Maryann McFadden, now is the time to do so. The Book Lover is a 2012 Indie Next Pick. I recommend The Book Lover for book clubs and individuals alike. You can’t go wrong.
You may learn more than you ever wanted to know about promoting an Indie Novel and owning an independent bookstore. I loved every morsel.