I can’t honestly remember why I first picked this up. It probably wasn’t a recommendation from a friend, who would have known better than to recommend me a book where a main characters dies of brain cancer. It’s kind of a sore spot, and that explains on its own why the ending of this book wrapped a hand around my windpipe and squeezed.
It’s kind of a fun read, for the most part; light tone, easy to read, not too deep, but with a love of books pervading it, the transformative power of them and the ability they have to bring people together. I was surprised, from the light tone at the start, how awful A.J.’s situation is — and the book doesn’t baulk from making that clear, even though the prose doesn’t linger on it and keeps things very simple. There’s a trick of it, very simple sentences, which can offer a sense of profundity. Sometimes it works for this book, sometimes not; all through, the simplicity was wearing on me. Large stretches of time and momentous events are skipped over in a handful of sentences; things that should be difficult (like a guy adopting a random child he’s not related to who was just left in his bookshop) are condensed into a paragraph. It all seems too slick and easy.
Still, Maya and A.J.’s relationship is sweet, and it’s hard not to like a redemption story with a little kid and a grumpy curmudgeon softening their heart (Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, any episode of NCIS featuring Special Agent Gibbs and a child…). I’m not enamoured, I’m afraid, but I can see the potential for making a film out of it or something, and if it keeps that love of books in place when they do, maybe it’ll produce some nostalgia for little persnickety bookshops.