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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Swoon-Worthy Trifecta Not Enough to Make Southern Beach Novel Stand Out

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Bonny Blankenship's happiest memories from childhood all center around one place: Watersend, South Carolina.  She loved spending long, languid summers there with her best friend, Lainey.  Known around town as the "Summer Sisters," the girls wiled away the hours swimming, dreaming, and reading at Title Wave, the local bookstore.  Although those idyllic vacations ended abruptly when Lainey's mother disappeared, Bonny still longs for the innocent, bygone days of her youth.  

When Bonny, now an ER doctor in Charleston, makes a critical mistake at work, she's encouraged to take some time off.  Lainey's suggestion of spending one last summer at Watersend seems to be just the ticket. Piper, Bonny's college drop-out daughter, comes along to nanny for Lainey's children while the two old friends (sans spouses) reconnect at the family cottage they've always loved.  As Bonny and Lainey share their individual triumphs and tragedies, they find camaraderie and understanding.  While trying to make sense of both their presents and their shared past, the duo poke into the continuing mystery of Lainey's mother.  With some help from Mimi, the owner of Title Wave, the women search for answers, healing, and the comfort that can only be found within the pages of a good book.  

The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry combines several of my favorite novel themes: the South, the beach, and books.  That's a trifecta pretty much guaranteed to make me swoon.  In this case, though, it just ... didn't.  Not really.  I had trouble feeling any connection with Bonny or Lainey, both of whom seemed immature and self-absorbed.  While the story felt melodramatic to me, it was compelling enough to keep me reading.  Overall, though, I didn't love it.  In fact, The Bookshop at Water's End was so forgettable to me that I had to read a couple different plot summaries before I could remember enough about the book to write this review.  Bummer, because I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Karen White and Dorothea Benton Frank)


If this were a movie, it would be rated: 

for language (a few F-bombs plus milder expletives), violence, mild sexual content, and references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Bookshop at Water's End from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!
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