With a slow start but ultimately a heartwarming lesson about family and determination, this book is worth reading. The first half of the book, I honestly was not sure that I would be able to finish it since the whole premise of the book about selling the bookstore was all that seemed to be the focus. At the beginning of the book, Elliot has passed away and his co-owner of the bookstore, Irma, has decided to sell Over the Rainbow. Irma refuses to explain to anyone why she would even consider selling Elliot’s beloved bookstore to a condo developer, but she is determined to do so in spite of all of the objections from her daughters Laney and Bree and Elliot’s partner Thom. Bree’s employment, in fact her entire life, is centered around the bookstore, so she is understandably about to melt down. Laney flies home from CA when she is summoned by her mother and is as bewildered about Irma’s choice as everyone else. The most charming part of the book and the reason I rounded up was the newsletter that was written by Elliot and interspersed throughout the regular plot. In the newsletter, Elliot gives book recommendations that are filled with recommendations for real books to those who don’t like to read. Elliot was convinced that a non-reader just has not met the right book yet, so in his newsletter, he strives to introduce them to what he thinks would be a good fit. The entire small town gets involved in the dilemma about selling Over the Rainbow so the drama is heightened. There is a lot of heart and humor in the book. I particularly found Laney to be humorous, snarky at times and vulnerably wistful at others. Once the secret was revealed for why Irma has decided to sell, the book’s pace picked up and the story continued on its merry way to a conclusion. I was not a fan of the relationship between Thom and Elliot, seeing it as a nod to that lifestyle, but it was not portrayed in a way that was offensive, so I was able to read the book without any problems. I did enjoy the sense of family overcoming things together and the town pitching in to help, even if their methods were a bit unconventional. I also enjoyed the blooming romance between Bree and the bartender Witt as well as finding out his real job before he decided to tend bars. The characters were credible, the plot was slow at first and then moderately paced and the story itself is worth reading.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive reviewer. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
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Q & A with Gretchen Anthony:
How do you come up with your themes?
I love this question because I believe theme is crucial to telling a powerful story. It should radiate, become the answer to the question, What’s the book about?
All that said, themes are difficult! They refuse to be twisted into a story that won’t have them or manipulated to fit a character. For that reason, I’ve written many stories that I thought were “about” something, only to realize later they were about something else. In The Kids Are Gonna Ask, for example, I originally believed it was a story about family bonds. But as the two teenage characters grew in the plot and in my mind, I realized the story was as much about the bonds these kids shared, as it was about discovering what made each of them own unique.
And yet, I always knew that The Book Haters’ Book Club was about found family. We book nerds can be quirky folk, and when we quirky folk find our people, we never let go! I wanted this to be a story that brought people together. I also wanted the primary setting, the Over the Rainbow Bookshop, to be a place that lived up to its motto: “Books and Rainbows are where dreams come true.”
What is the attraction to writing/reading about women’s friendships?
What a lovely question… There’s so much talk about women tearing each other down at work and in society. And yes, I think we do cut each other sometimes. But most of us don’t want all that drama in our lives or from our friendships. Drama is exhausting! So, if I don’t want that in my life, why should I write about it?
Personally, I’m drawn to stories that remind me of the real people I know. Sure, a story may be set in post-WWII Paris, but if the characters are honest with each other, if they make one another laugh and help each other out of a jamb, those are my people. That’s who I want to spend time with–in fiction and in life.
Which comes first: characters or plot?
Always, definitely characters. I have to “hear” the people telling the story. I can plot and plot but if the characters don’t feel real to me, what happens to them is just a hollow shell.
Have you ever been writing a novel and realized the theme is very much like something you’ve experienced?
Yes! I had that experience for the first time with The Book Haters’ Book Club. One of the characters, Laney, came very naturally to me. She grew up in her mother’s bookstore, but as an adult, she wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, when the novel opens, she’s living two-thousand miles away with a job that’s about as different from bookselling as one can imagine.
As I wrote, Laney’s scenes flowed so easily that I grew curious about my affinity to her. I realized that I, too, “pulled a Laney” after graduating from college. I moved two-thousand miles away and ignored the “good, predictable” opportunities that came my way for riskier, unfamiliar ones. Like Laney, I needed to find out who I was, and to do that, I needed distance and time.
I can’t tell you what happens to her because that would be a spoiler. But I will say that my life turned out great! [wink, wink]