The Bookseller
Cynthia Swanson
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The Bookseller
Cynthia Swanson
352 pages
February 2015
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on The Bookseller.

“Whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream.” – recorded by the Everly Brothers, April 1958
Dreams are fascinating. They are often predictors of actions, wish fulfillment or recurring fears. But do dreams go on and on, becoming more believable than daily life?

This first novel is one of the oddest this reader has encountered in a long time. Definitely a woman’s read, reminiscent of Chick Lit with higher aspirations, the novel centers on three women.

Kitty Miller, an American woman of thirty-eight, alternately loves and loathes her life. Unmarried, living with a feline companion, strongly attached to her parents, she owns a small bookshop in Denver with her best friend, Frieda. During this time, the early '60s, shouldn’t she be married, own a house, have children? Didn’t all young American women believe they were “old maids” by 30?

Frieda is also single. In the mid-1950s, the friends bought their bookstore, but business has slowed down. They debate what to do--move their location or close entirely. They are late with the rent. Muses Kitty, “What I’ve learned, what we’ve both learned over the years, is that nothing is as permanent as it appears at the start.”

Then there is Katharyn, which is Kitty’s real name, married to the love of her life, Lars, with children and a lovely house. Kitty met a Lars in her 20s, but only one time.

What is truly going on is that Kitty has vivid dreams of being Katharyn, of marrying this handsome man she once met. She begins to not be able to distinguish between her real and her dream life. In an early dream, Kitty has to tend to her daughter’s illness and decide if she should keep her home from school. The trouble is, “… I do not have children. I am not a mother.”

Which is, in fact, reality?

The Bookseller has well-developed characters, the storyline moves along at a good clip, and the reader does not become bored. This is an imaginative, even clever story, fitting for summertime reading--and maybe will encourage readers to pay more attention to their dreams. I still note that it is a bit perplexing. Is this mainstream fiction or is it fantasy?

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Deborah Straw, 2015

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