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The Bookshop of Yesterdays

Review

The Bookshop of Yesterdays

When Miranda Brooks was 27, her life was just starting to fall into place. She had relocated to Philadelphia from California and was working as an eighth-grade history teacher. She had just moved in with her boyfriend Jay, who was also a teacher and coach at her school. Life seemed to be well-ordered.

Enter (or re-enter) Billy: “I always knew Billy would return to me in the form of a clue; I just didn’t think it would take him sixteen years.” Billy is Miranda’s beloved but capricious uncle, a seismologist and owner of Prospero Books in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles, where they answer the phone with “Prospero Books, where books are prized above dukedom.” It was from Billy that Miranda got her love of books and adventure. Lazy days of her youth spent at the bookstore imprinted heavily on her: “It was there I discovered Anne of Green Gables, Mary Lennox and, more recently, Kristy, Claudia, Stacey and their friends in the baby-sitters club.”

"Amy Meyerson’s debut is a charming family story for lovers of books and bookshops... THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS will appeal to book groups as well as to anyone who longs to get lost in a good book."

And, in addition to a love of literature, Uncle Billy instilled in his young niece a love of adventure, of a quest. For years, he left her clues meant to impart wisdom and knowledge as well as lead to the reward: “Even though I always figured out where the quest was going before we got there, he refused to let me rush through the lesson.” But the lessons have come to an end, or so Miranda thinks. When she learns that Billy has passed away, she returns to Los Angeles to say goodbye to her treasured uncle and perhaps solve a few mysteries of her family’s past.

Miranda always wondered what happened between Uncle Billy and her mother. She has fuzzy memories of him forgetting her birthday, only to show up hours later and sometimes with an inappropriate gift (a puppy without asking her parents’ permission ahead of time). The final straw came after her 12th birthday because then she didn’t see Billy anymore, and her mother would never expound on the reason: “Whatever had passed between her and Billy, it had been too much for them to forgive. They’d said things they couldn’t unsay. They lost each other in that fight. Or maybe they’d been lost to each other for years. I had no idea anymore. One thing I did know, what I felt acutely, was that Billy had lost me….”

But now, after attending her uncle’s memorial service, Miranda learns she has inherited Prospero Books, her once-cherished hideaway that is now teetering on bankruptcy. Can she abandon her life back east in order to turn this besieged business into a successful one? And what did happen between her mother and Billy so many years ago? Well, in addition to leaving his store behind for Miranda, he’s also left her one more scavenger hunt: a quest whose outcome hopefully will provide answers concerning the mystery behind her family’s rift.

Amy Meyerson’s debut is a charming family story for lovers of books and bookshops, especially the small, independent ones that are rapidly becoming extinct. As cited in the book’s epigram by William Shakespeare, “What’s past is prologue,” and Meyerson adeptly demonstrates this with her amiable novel of one family’s disharmony and how Miranda must determine the origins of the friction in order to ultimately learn the answer. THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS will appeal to book groups as well as to anyone who longs to get lost in a good book.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on June 28, 2018

The Bookshop of Yesterdays
by Amy Meyerson

  • Publication Date: June 12, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Park Row
  • ISBN-10: 0778319849
  • ISBN-13: 9780778319849