16th May, 2021

Review: The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak (Mira)

Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can’t imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.

Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again.

The Bookstore on the Beach is a novel about family, about belonging and about the secrets we keep to protect the ones we love. I instantly fell in love with Mary and Autumn's family. I was rooting for Autumn to find happiness again, suffered with Taylor through her inner turmoil and worried about Mary having to face her past. However, the book tried to pick up so many different topics that it seemed like a lot happening to one single family in such a short period of time. Topics include domestic violence, kidnapping, rape, teen pregnancy, LGBTQ+ issues, terminal illness, reconnecting with your highschool love,  international politics and possible espionage. Oof!!! While many of these plot strands were very interesting, I found that overall it was a bit much for a book of roughly 400 pages. Towards the end this aspect made me anxious about whether all the issues raised would be resolved satisfactorily. And spoiler alert: they unfortunately weren't. 

The biggest problem I had, however, was the discrepancy between what readers expect from the title and what they get. I picked up this book mainly because I thought there'd be a strong focus on the bookshop part (maybe something along the lines of The Printed Letter Bookshop or The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry). However, the bookshop and/or books are only a backdrop for the rest of the story. The shop is always only mentioned in passing, for example as in the characters discussing the above mentioned issues while unboxing new deliveries, somebody having to close up, etc. This is something that hugely disappointed me, and I will be honest: if the characters hadn't been so likeable I might have bailed. Because I did care for them and because I did want to learn how especially Marys and Autumn's stories turned out, I continued reading. 

It's a pity that this book is a bit of a "hot mess" because the story did have so much potential. It IS a good enough book and I'd definitely recommend it with a little warning not to expect too much bookshop content. So if you're looking for a lovely family story and don't mind the overload of meaningful topics, you should definitely give The Bookstore on the Beach a go. 

Rating: 3/5 stars

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