Schoolteacher Miranda Brooks reaches a crossroads in her life when she learns of her Uncle Billy’s death. He was a big and very important part of her childhood years, but a family rift resulted in her not seeing him for over a decade. Her mother, unable to find forgiveness in her heart, does not attend her brother Billy’s funeral, so Miranda goes alone. With promises to her live-in boyfriend Jay, she embarks from their home in Philadelphia, on what she thinks will be a visit home lasting about a week.
When she was a child, Uncle Billy would take her on adventures. These adventures were usually didactic and often included riddles. Frequently, they ended up at Billy’s bookstore, Prospero Books. Miranda always loved it there, and Billy would let her choose a book every time. Miranda was named for the Shakespeare character in the play “The Tempest”. The bookstore’s sign showed a picture of Prospero holding his staff in one hand and a book in the other.
“Billy called seismology his real job,
Prospero Books his fun job.”
Miranda learns that Billy has left her his beloved bookstore, Prospero Books, which is located in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Some would say that her inheritance is more of a burden than a windfall. Like many independently owned bookstores, Prospero Books is struggling to make ends meet.
“We had competing recollections of the past, but one wasn’t more right than the other”.
It seems that Billy has one more adventure for Miranda. One more riddle to solve. He leaves his obscure clues in books scattered throughout the store. She befriends the store’s meagre staff, including the taciturn though handsome manager, Malcolm. As she attempts to fend off creditors, and keep the store open, Miranda repeatedly delays her flight back to Philadelphia. She and her mother aren’t speaking, and she feels she can’t leave with things as they are. Whilst trying to mend her relationship with her mother, she finds out some life-altering family secrets.
Meanwhile, her trip home keeps getting delayed…
Miranda’s story was engaging, though predictable. I guessed what the big family secret was, which somewhat marred the reading experience for me. I was impatient for Miranda to realize what I had already guessed. I very much enjoyed the atmosphere of the novel with its charming bookstore and myriad book references. I felt that the riddles were too obscure for most readers, but that the novel was well rendered on the whole.
This is a novel about family secrets, forgiveness, new beginnings, and the destructive nature of miscommunication. A worthy debut novel that I enjoyed enough to look forward to what this author writes next.
“The Bookshop of Yesterdays” is on sale June 12, 2018 but is available for pre-order now!I received a digital copy of this novel from Park Row Books via Edelweiss. This in no way influenced my rating or review of this book.
Amy Meyerson teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, where she completed her graduate work in creative writing. She has been published in numerous literary magazines and currently lives in Los Angeles. The Bookshop of Yesterdays is her first novel.