This review originally appears here: http://www.guyvestal.com/home/the-bookstore-review/
When one reads reviews of this book from various venues, you see much of a rather "mixed bag" of either love it or hate it opinions, with not much middle ground.
The character at the center of the story is Esme Garland, a student at Columbia from Cambridge. She finds herself becoming pregnant whilst pursuing her PhD.
Is she frustrating much of the time? Yes.
Is her relationship with the Father of the child just as frustrating, and one that makes you wonder why she is involved with, and continues to try and make function the dysfunction that is at the center of the story? Yes.
Something that the "haters" of this character and the dysfunction in question, Mitchell, are missing in, their focus on Esme, is the surrounding cast of characters, and the very physical landscape itself.
The Bookstore (The Owl), its employees, its customers, and the visuals of The city (New York) are where I kept the focus of the story at. Esme's dysfunctional relationship is par for the course in Western Civilization, ergo when one treats it with the reality of either our own trials and tribulations, or as first hand witnesses of the troubles of others, we can see that it is the friends around us, and our everyday landscape that is at the center of our support system, that gets us and others through to the other side.
This is indeed the case with this story. The Bookstore and everything about and around it, is the real story here, and its main character is just the vessel used to expose the little things in life that we take for granted, the things that go by with little to no fanfare.
If you are a lover of books, or maybe a lover of New York, or simply just a lover of tight knit communities, as well as the people, places, and environment that makes up a neighborhood, then this story is for you. Yes, Esme is the central character, but if you look at her as a tour guide, you can find yourself immersed in the neighborhood, buying flowers, shopping at the Korean deli, chatting with the local street people, and sorting through the books to be shelved and later rifled through by the very people you look forward to seeing everyday.