After three years away, Rachel has lost touch with most of her friends from her home town. Those she didn’t drift away from, she cut from her life after her brother died. Grief has caused Rachel to withdraw, but she needs to get away from the place that holds all the memories surrounding Cal’s death, so she’s back in her home town again, facing people she’d rather not see again.
I prefer that synopsis to the one given on Goodreads, which makes this seem like a simple love story through letters in a bookstore. It’s not just about a love story through letters in a bookstore, though. It’s about Rachel’s depression and coping mechanisms. It’s about her ex-best-friend Henry and his obsession with a girl who comes back to him whenever she’s lonely or feeling vulnerable. It’s about a family that is falling apart, and a failing secondhand bookstore at the heart of that fallout.
This was (mostly) a very good book, thick and nuanced. With the exception of a few things toward the end (some things to do with Henry’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, who seemed a very undeveloped character), I enjoyed the story. I do wish that I hadn’t read it while I was sick, and that I hadn’t sped through it in a single afternoon. It’s the kind of book that’s easy to devour in a gulp and difficult to put down once you start, but at the same time it’s the sort of book that, for me, won’t stick long-term because of the way I read it.
And that’s unfortunate, because it’s a book that deserves to be remembered. The grief is very well-written, subtle and nuanced and just erratic enough to be believable. The love sections, too, were slow-growing and realistic. The addition of the letter-library and the various letters quoted throughout were a nice touch, and I love that not all the letters were romantic. Then there were the philosophical touches throughout, characters with backgrounds in poetry and science intermingling their plausible and not-so-plausible theories/beliefs in order to try to heal. It all meshed together so well, making a very rich experience that, again, I wish I hadn’t slammed my way through. Perhaps I will revisit one day for a longer-lasting impression.