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The Bookseller: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 3, 2015
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“Cynthia Swanson’s novel will make you think about the paths you could have taken—but even more so, what you can learn from them to make your reality richer.” (Redbook Magazine)
“What if? These words tantalize and haunt us. In The Bookseller, writing with a sharp-tinged empathic pen, Cynthia Swanson takes us on a startling journey where a woman is thrust into the alternative world that might have been, had she made different choices.” (Randy Susan Meyers, author of Accidents of Marriage)
“Cynthia Swanson’s The Bookseller is both a delightful and haunting exploration of identity, love and loss. With great style and compassion, the author asks the age-old question: ‘What if my life were different?’ The answers in this affecting debut novel are truly surprising.” (Joanna Hershon, author of A Dual Inheritance)
“I inhaled The Bookseller. I loved both of Kitty’s worlds, and refused to put the book down until I saw how the tension between the two worlds resolved. A deeply satisfying read.” (Ann Napolitano, author of A Good Hard Look)
“Swanson masterfully crafts both Kitty’s and Katharyn’s worlds, leaving open the question of which of them is real until the final pages. Swanson’s evocative novel freshly considers the timeless question, ‘What if?’ ” (Publishers Weekly)
“The novel delivers on its fantasy scenario like a modern-day fairy tale…. proves highly satisfying.” (USA Today)
“Dexterously traversing past and present, fact and fiction, Swanson’s clever first novel ingeniously explores the inventive ways the human spirit copes with trauma.” (Booklist)
“This is a stunner of a debut novel, astonishingly tight and fast paced. The 1960s tone is elegant and even, and Kitty/Katharyn’s journey is intriguing…. This will especially resonate with fans of the movie Sliding Doors and the authors Anna Quindlen and Anita Shreve.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Swanson’s debut novel is slightly mysterious and thoroughly engrossing, one of those books that will stay with the reader long after it is complete.” (Romantic Times)
“This is the story of a woman coming to terms with who she is; both woman and novel are beautiful.” (Shelf Awareness)
“. . . An accomplished first novel. It is interesting, intriguing, and ultimately satisfying.” (New York Journal of Books)
From the Back Cover
1962: It may be the Swinging Sixties in New York, but in Denver—as in many other American cities—it’s different: being a single gal over thirty is almost bohemian. Still, thirty-eight-year-old Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional life. She was involved, once, but things didn’t work out. Now she dedicates herself to the bookstore she runs, returning home each evening to her cozy apartment.
Then the dreams begin.
1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They live in a picture-perfect home in a suburban area of Denver, the ideal place to raise their children. Katharyn’s world is exactly what Kitty once believed she wanted . . . but it exists only when she sleeps.
At first, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, Katharyn’s alluring life grows more real. As the lines between the two worlds begin to blur, Kitty faces an uncertain future. What price must she pay to stay? What is the cost of letting go?
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To explain that, Kitty Miller lives in 1962 Denver, Colorado in a nice, cozy apartment by herself. She is 38 and unmarried and works in a bookstore that she and her best friend, Frieda, own. Kitty did have a serious boyfriend, but it didn't lead to marriage the way she hoped it would. Now she works and goes home to her apartment and reads in the evening or watches TV. Kitty starts having dreams that she is married to a very handsome man in 1963, lives in an expensive house and has two very lovely children. It is a perfect life with a family who loves her and things couldn't be more wonderful. Then Kitty wakes up and she's back to her life at the bookstore. As the story goes on the lines between her dreams and her real life begin to blur until she doesn't know which one is reality. I got a bit confused at this point because I didn't know, either. The author, Cynthia Swanson, makes the transition between the two worlds very smoothly throughout the book as she heads toward the ending.
Kitty Miller is a character that I liked very much along with her friend, Frieda. They are interesting and while alike in some ways, they conflict in others. This is the author's debut novel and she did an excellent job with it. I intend to read her next one when it is released.
The Bookseller is well-written and the genre is well-executed. It had a few frustrations for me (as all books do), like the husband and parents seem a bit too unrealistically supportive and uncomplicated to believe, the husband too perfect and idealized for depth, but I could easily look past these to gain the many gold nuggets this novel provides. As a psychiatrist, in the end I found the strength of the protagonist's "dreams" that were ultimately dissociations hard to believe given the inciting trauma and her lack of a childhood traumatic basis for such a reaction.
But the theme has relevance nonetheless. It challenges the reader to think about when and why we might find ourselves daydreaming alternate stories for our lives, based on taking a different course at the no-way-to-turn-back decision points that lead to our current reality.
I highly recommend this novel to individuals who like a good story as well as one that leaves them thinking way beyond the last page, and to book clubs who are looking for a discussion that melts the book's theme with the personal.
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Not my type.