The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

I went into The Bookstore expecting to really enjoy it. Sadly I didn’t as much as I had hoped, but I was invested enough to read until the end to find out what happened to Esme and her pregnancy.

A lot of this novel unfolds in conversations, and I didn’t find very many of them to be convincing, or particularly interesting. Part of the problem is that about half take place in the bookstore, The Owl (I guess to be expected in a novel so titled). I learned some things about all of them, but I didn’t get a chance to know anyone beyond superficial interactions. There wasn’t much depth.

Esme’s relationship with Mitchell was also problematic. He shows repeatedly that he doesn’t seem to be that much in love, and was such an ass to the point that it seems as if Meyler is hinting at mental illness or some sort of deficiency. Their relationship and the depth of Esme’s feelings for him never made sense. Esme seemed to like him well enough in the beginning, but was also much more concerned about school, and the new life she was building in New York. In many respects her behavior did make sense for a woman in love, and in a toxic relationship. I just didn’t see the love, so it was very hard to understand why she went through the things she did.

It wasn’t all loss. I did enjoy the descriptions of the bookstore and some of the patrons, Esme’s work on her graduate degree, and the discussions of authors, artists, novels, and the literary life in general. My finishing The Bookstore was driven by trying to see what perspective Esme gains around choices concerning her pregnancy and relationship, but unfortunately the novel’s conclusion was unsatisfying. It ended rather abruptly – with few indications of where Esme will go next, or how much of her past has been resolved. Less ambiguity by the end would have gone a long way in shaping how I felt by the novel’s end. As it stands, I was more disappointed than not.

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