2015 Book 84: THE BOOKSELLER Review

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
ISBN: 9780062333001 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062333025 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L7WZDES (Kindle edition)
Publication date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Harper

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . . 

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

Katharyn “Kitty” Miller is a single, late-thirties business owner in Denver, Colorado. She runs a bookstore with her best friend, Frieda Green. Kitty had worked as a school teacher but found that she couldn’t handle the classroom environment very well. Kitty’s parents are taking a long vacation in Hawaii. Although she misses her parents, she is kept busy with her job and her wonderful dream world as a married mother of three.

Katharyn Andersson seems to only live in Kitty’s dreams. She’s married and has three children, triplets – Michael, Mitch, and Missy. Her life as Mrs. Andersson is almost perfect, except she is not quite sure how to deal with her autistic son Michael, she is estranged from her best friend Frieda, and she seems to be increasingly forgetful about what is real and what isn’t anymore. This confusion is exacerbated by the fact that her dreams are about her single life as Kitty Miller. 

In Kitty’s life she never met Lars, he died before they met. Her dream home has never been built, and most importantly she is still friends with Frieda. Kitty and Katharyn’s lives seem to run on parallel courses. It’s the same year. The same events are taking place. The basics are the same – friendship with Frieda, operating the bookstore Sisters with Frieda, and her parents’ trip to Hawaii. Their lives diverged in the mid-1950s when Katharyn actually saved Lars’ life and they eventually married and started a family. 

I found The Bookseller to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. The lives of Kitty/Katharyn were filled with the normal joys and sorrows, although Katharyn seemed to have suffered more (no I won’t tell you how she suffered . . . read the book!). Although I knew that Kitty and Katharyn are the same person living seemingly different lives, it felt as if they were two completely different people. Each life was vivid and incredibly realistic. Along with Kitty/Katharyn, I found myself asking “which life is real?” Yes, Ms. Swanson provides an answer at the end and the end neatly ties up the disparities in their lives. I found it difficult to pigeonhole The Bookseller. Is it a psychological thriller? Is it historical fiction? Is it literary fiction? Or is it possibly a combination of all three. I can say that The Bookseller was an intriguing book that forced me to sit and think about life and the choices we make. This was a book that required me to take a step back and think about the story for a few hours after I finished reading it, simply because it was just that good and I couldn’t think about reading anything else for awhile. If you enjoy reading fiction that’s a little different, that incorporates heart-warming and heart-wrenching drama, and is well-written with wholly believable characters and plausible action then you’ll definitely want to read The Bookseller. Don’t just add this to your TBR list, set aside time to read it as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Swanson in the future. 

(NOTE: I prefer the cover for the ebook and Kindle version of this book as it exemplifies the different lives and lifestyles of Kitty and Katharyn.)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Author: thebookdivasreads

I'm a reader, an avid reader, or perhaps a rabid reader (at least according to my family). I enjoy reading from a variety of different genres but particularly enjoy fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, ChickLit, romance and classics. I also enjoy reading about numerous non-fiction subjects including aromatherapy, comparative religions, herbalism, naturopathic medicine, and tea.

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