Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Bookshop at Water's End

Title:  The Bookshop at Water's End
Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
Publication Information:  Berkeley. 2017. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0399583114 / 978-0399583117

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "We are defined by the moods and whims of a wild tidal river surrounding our small town, cradling us in its curved basin."

Favorite Quote:  "Sometimes we tell our stories and sometimes our stories tell us."

Bonny Blackenship is an Emergency Room doctor in Charleston. She loves her career but has concerns about her rocky marriage and her twenty year old daughter Piper who seems misguided and directionless. A terrible accident one night puts Bonny's career in questions and sets her on a path to reevaluate her life. To lick her wound and to reflects, she retreats to a family summer home on the river at Watersend, South Carolina. Along with her, she brings her daughter and her best friend Lainey, her childhood "Summer Sister."

Lainey brings burdens of her own. Her last summer on the river was the summer her mother disappeared. Her body was never found; her disappearance was never resolved. Lainey has never stopped looking. Her brother Owen went the other direction and seems to keep nothing of permanence in his life.

Now, this group finds its way back to this place that was both the place of Bonny, Lainey, and and Owen's idyllic childhood memories and of their worst childhood nightmares. The permanent residents of the town become part of this story, both as a gateway to the past and as a path to the future.

Like many other beach reads, the characters' concerns multiply and grow. Told in alternating views, the reader follows the path of Bonny, Lainey, and Piper. A few time, Mimi the bookseller's perspective comes though, but not as much as you would think based on the book title. Also in keeping with a beach read, by the end, the story lines comes together, secrets are revealed, the past is resolved, and the path forward becomes clear.

The story - all the story lines - do find a conclusion. However, some of them do feel unfinished and unresolved. The story of Bonny's marriage although brief has a ring of truth to it; the dissolution of a love and the realization that a partner is not who one envisioned comes through. The story of Bonny and Owen on the other hand is told, but the emotions and reasoning are not really explored. Owen's character as a whole seems undeveloped.

The story of Lainey and Owen's mother goes in a direction that seems to jump from beginning to end. The middle - the struggle of a young woman who may never know what happened - would make for an emotional, engaging story. That does not come.

Piper is perhaps the most engaging character. A twenty year who needs and finds an attitude adjustment. Her attitude towards adults balanced with the way she cares for Lainey's children present a lovely picture of the contradictions of a young adult trying to find her way in life.

For a book with "bookshop" and "water's end" in the title, the story has little to do with either. What the book does have are many elements for a story about women, family, secrets, small town life, and finding direction in life. The Bookshop at Water's End is a book to be read on a casual afternoon at the water's edge. In other words, it is a nice easy summer beach read.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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