Review of Bookish People by Susan Coll @Susan_Coll @harpermusebooks

So many thoughts. So many feelings. A book that took me much longer to read than it should. But not in a bad way.

Blurb: A perfect storm of comedic proportions erupts in a DC bookstore over the course of one soggy summer week—narrated by two very different women and punctuated by political turmoil, a celestial event, and a perpetually broken vacuum cleaner.

Independent bookstore owner Sophie Bernstein is burned out on books. Mourning the death of her husband, the loss of her favorite manager, her only child’s lack of aspiration, and the grim state of the world, she fantasizes about going into hiding in the secret back room of her store.

Meanwhile, renowned poet Raymond Chaucer has published a new collection, and rumors that he’s to blame for his wife’s suicide have led to national cancellations of his publicity tour. He intends to set the record straight—with an ultra-fine-point Sharpie—but only one shop still plans to host him: Sophie’s.

Fearful of potential repercussions from angry customers, Sophie asks Clemi—bookstore events coordinator, aspiring novelist, and daughter of a famed literary agent—to cancel Raymond’s appearance. But Clemi suspects Raymond might be her biological father, and she can’t say no to the chance of finding out for sure.

This big-hearted screwball comedy features an intergenerational cast of oblivious authors and over-qualified booksellers—as well as a Russian tortoise named Kurt Vonnegut Jr.—and captures the endearing quirks of some of the best kinds of people: the ones who love good books.

Purchase Links:
Amazon | Shop your local indie bookstore

The one true element of reading is that no two people are going to read the same book the same way. For instance, the blurb for Bookish People suggests that it is far more comedic than I found it to be. Satiric? Yes. Funny? Sometimes. Screwball comedy? Only in the oddness of some of the situations that present themselves.

Sophie Bernstein has lost her husband and has, as such, become more than a little lost herself and it seems she never expected this. She’s being undone by the current events around her. The recent presidential election. The tragedy in Charlottesville, VA. How her husband quoted words from The Diary of Anne Frank moments before he died and her searching for what those words ultimately meant/mean. There’s a hidden nook in her bookstore that she believes she might like to hide in as the world turns increasingly belligerent.

Clemi thinks she is a writer but she may have torn up more pages than she’s written. But between saving her best friend from college and inviting a controversial poet for a reading who may just be her father (they share the same chin) and crushing on a guy who doesn’t deserve her crushing on him with whom she adopts a tortoise, she’s more than a little overwhelmed. The books, though, they seem to offer life, sustenance, and something more magical.

Bookish People may have had an unintended affect on me. Reviewing some of the recent political history in the US just made me feel . . . sad. Depressed. By intertwining actual events with fictional, such as the horrific situation crime Charlottesville, VA, Susan Coll raises emotion. One of the bookstore employees, Belinda, was injured. This brings the event home. Her bruises, brokenness are felt among a large group of people.

Juxtaposed is Raymond Chaucer (who may be venturing on his own Canterbury tale of baseball and bourbon and what on earth is an Aga), a poet, philanderer who may be Clemi’s father (that chin). He’s definitely a drunk and a wretched person but evidently an exquisite poet. Where do ethics and art meet and diverge?

Bookish People is not a lengthy book but it took me far longer to get through it. Not because of any complexity but because of emotion. I found it emotionally difficult so I was not as zealous about returning to read as I might otherwise have been. Did that mean it was bad or I didn’t like it? No. Yes, I get that a lot of it is satire. That I am supposed to be laughing. But, really, I was sad. I felt far more for Sophie’s difficulties. I felt for Clemi. I felt sad and aching and that’s on me. I guess. I did laugh. There was absurd. There was funny. But in this time, it’s hard to laugh at the things that may be really sad. And that, again, may just be on me. Maybe my funny bone needs to some tuning up. I’ll look into that.

Regardless, Bookish People touched me, made me feel, react, and recommend it for others to read. You, perhaps.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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