I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.
I always enjoy reading a new, young writer, especially when she can spin a decent tale. Amy Meyerson has done this with her debut novel, The Bookshop of Yesterdays. Of course, some of my loyal listeners might recognize this story as one revolving around a bookshop. My taste for this genre received a boost with the recent opening of The Fabled Bookshop and Café in Waco.
One of the things I like about this novel is a splendid opening paragraph. Meyerson wrote, “The last time I saw my uncle, he bought me a dog. A golden retriever puppy with sad eyes and a heart-shaped nose. I didn’t have her long enough to give her a name. One moment she was running around my living room with the promise of many adventures together and the next she was gone. It was the same way with Uncle Billy. One moment he was waving goodbye as he reversed out of my driveway. Then I never saw him again” (9). A retriever and a book: what more could anyone want? But as Billy left, the story took mysterious twist.
Some of the other characters included Miranda’s best friend Joanie, her boyfriend Jay, her parents, Suzy and John, four workers at Prospero Books led by the manager Malcolm. As is usual about a bookstore, novels, plays, poetry, history, and lots of used books were always on the minds of the characters. When Miranda receives a peculiar letter from Billy, she recalls the times in her childhood when Billy teased her with puzzles. These began a stream of messages Miranda needed to untangle the mystery of Billy’s disappearance. These clues involved book titles and lines from Shakespeare, which slowly unraveled the secrets Miranda sought. Several were from Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest. Here is a sample clue: “‘Tis time I should inform thee farther. Lend thy hand and pluck my magic garment from me. So lie there, my art. Sit down: for thou must now know farther’’ (33). These made little sense at first, but as they began to accumulate, Miranda followed the growing list of clues with increasing interest.
As the end of summer approaches, Miranda decides she will stay at Prospero Books to resolve the mystery, much to the chagrin of Jay, at home alone in Philadelphia. He wants her to resume her teaching career. One of the interesting puzzles involves a book by Erica Jong, Fear of Flying. Along with the myriad other books, this one seemed to affect Miranda. Amy wrote, “‘Men have been writing about women’s desires for centuries. It’s only right that a woman should account so candidly for her own. It’s only right that you celebrate it’ Dr. Howard stood and rose his fist in the air” (163). I once met MS. Jong, and she proved to be a powerful personality.
Miranda was faced with a valuable property teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy. As her connection to Prospero Books rises, she devises a number of schemes to rescue the faltering shop. Amy Meyerson’s debut novel, The Bookshop of Yesteryears, is an exciting read on many levels. I will leave to my readers to uncover the end of this story. 5 Stars.
Likely Stories is a production of KWBU. I’m Jim McKeown. Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!