The Book Lover by Maryann McFadden
Published by Three Women Press
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

From the publisher:

Ruth Hardaway has had one passion all her life: books. For the last thirty years she’s devoted her life to her store, The Book Lover, trying to bury her painful past. But now the store is in jeopardy, and the past is catching up with her.

Lucinda Barrett has lost everything in a life shattering betrayal. Desperate, she goes after one last dream – to be an author. Alone and broke, she embarks on a thousand mile journey, from bookstore to bookstore, eventually landing on Ruth’s doorstep. Ruth takes Lucy under her wing, championing her book and even offering her refuge at a nearby lake cabin. She wants one small favor in return, for Lucy to keep an eye on her son, Colin, who’s recovering from a war injury.

As the two women grow closer, Lucy strikes up an unlikely friendship with Colin. And she begins to think of Ruth as the mother she’s always wished for. For Ruth, Lucy is the one person she can confide her secrets. Or so she thinks.

As each woman begins to face her past, and the repercussions that still haunt her today, happiness finally seems within their grasp. But neither has any idea that their toughest decisions lie ahead. Or that their friendship is about to fall apart – because of a little white lie.

Despite this novel having an incredibly unfortunate cover, I decided to read it because I’d heard great things about McFadden’s previous novels. I actually ended up enjoying the book and I’m glad I read it, although I can’t help but wonder why on earth the publisher went with that cover!

The Book Lover is a story about two women, both sort of at a crossroads in their lives and not sure which way to go. Lucy has been betrayed by the one person who she trusted to never hurt her, and what she chooses to do with her fork in the road is to forge her own course, creating an elaborate plan to hand sell copies of her new book to every independent bookseller she can find. I found her story incredibly compelling and I really felt for her. The approach that she took to get her book out there was unconventional (and if I were a book seller, I would have found it annoying), but when she got the novel in the right hands, it certainly worked for her. I admired her tenacity and unwavering commitment to her work, and I rooted for her to end up with the success and happiness she was working so hard to find.

Ruth, on the other hand, is at a crossroads for a different reason. She’s owned her independent bookstore, The Book Lover, for many years now and the effort of running a business is starting to wear on her. The business itself is struggling, and constantly trying to keep on top of payroll, bills, etc., has begun to feel like more of a chore to Ruth than the fun it used to be. So when Lucy walks into her life, a breath of fresh air and someone who seems to need Ruth just as much as Ruth needs Lucy, it’s like a weight off of Ruth’s shoulders to finally be able to talk to someone about everything she’s going through. I liked Ruth, and definitely identified with her struggle to keep doing what she loved even though it was wearing her down and forcing her to push everything else in her life to the side. I rooted for her too, to figure out what was the right decision for her with the store and also to find the love in her life that she so deserved.

I have to admit that I had difficulty understanding why, when the “white lie” happens between the two women, there was such an issue in their friendship. I guess because the reader sees things from both points of view, but it just didn’t seem to be something that either woman should have been getting so bent out of shape about. So that was a bit disappointing – the climax of the novel was anticlimactic, for me anyway.

But besides that slight issue I had with the novel, I did enjoy it. Both main characters were compelling and I cared about them. I liked the concept and setting of an independent bookstore. Overall, The Book Lover is a sweet story that will appeal to lovers of women’s fiction.