The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
"1962: It may be the Swinging Sixties in New York, but in Denver it's different: being a single gal over thirty in this city is almost bohemian. Still, thirty-eight-year-old Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She was involved, once--with a doctor named Kevin--but when things didn't work out the way she had hoped, she decided to chart her own path. Now she dedicates herself to the bookstore she runs with her best friend, Frieda, returning home each evening to her cozy apartment. Without a husband expecting dinner, she can enjoy last-minute drinks after work with her friends; without children who need to get ready for school, she can stay up all night reading with her beloved cat, Aslan, by her side.
Then the dreams begin.
1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They live in a picture-perfect home in a suburban area of Denver, close to their circle of friends. It's the ideal place in which to raise their children. Katharyn's world is exactly what Kitty once believed she wanted...but it exists only when she sleeps. At first, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. Even though there is no Frieda, no bookstore, no other familiar face, Kitty becomes increasingly reluctant to open her eyes and abandon Katharyn's alluring life. But with each visit to her dreamworld, it grows more real. As the lines between the two worlds begin to blur, Kitty faces an uncertain future. What price must she pay to stay? What is the cost of letting go?"
This book is one of the SheReads.org books of spring! The beginning line of the book says, "This is not my bedroom." I was hooked from there. Seriously. I would freak out if I woke up in an unfamiliar room and couldn't remember how I got there. The story that unfolded following this opening line was compelling, intriguing, and full of emotion. I couldn't put it down. Each of the worlds felt so real and were crafted with great detail. I loved Kitty's life with the bookstore and her friend Frieda, and yet I fell in love with the dream of Katharyn's life with Lars and the children. The writing is very well done; I love Ms. Swanson's writing style. It flows seamlessly between time periods, and immediately you're drawn into the next world. The character development is very good. Kitty, Katharyn, Frieda, Lars, Kitty's parents--they are all so real-to-life. I really enjoyed this book. The whole time I was reading I kept wondering how in the world she would tie the two worlds together, and with about sixty pages left I finally got a hint of how that would happen. It worked really well and actually surprised me when I finally saw that direction. I liked the ending and thought it came together well. There was one tiny aspect of it that I didn't love, but the rest of it I thoroughly enjoyed. This book is heartwarming, full of detail, sad, happy, frustrating, and all the emotions in between. It definitely makes you think about your life and the choices you have made to get you to where you are.
There is very little profanity in this book, which is good. There are a few words, but that's it. There really isn't any violence except for a description of some abuse that happened before the story takes place. "Intimacy," however, is a different story. Right at the beginning there is a scene that is quite detailed. I was a little worried, but that is the only scene that goes into great detail. There was one more towards the end, but it's not quite as detailed. Two things about this book could have been so much better: the cover art and the title. The cover art is bland and boring. The title is even worse. The title is not exciting, it does not grab you at all, and it does not do this book justice. Other than those two things, I enjoyed this book. I loved the hint of mystery, the emotion, and the learning that Kitty went through. I would recommend this book with the above warnings, and I think it would make a great book group discussion.
Rating: R (Not a lot of profanity or violence, but there are two love-making scenes, and one of them is very detailed.)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.