Rating: 5 stars
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?
This book has been compared to the 1998 movie Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow. That intrigued me because I loved that movie where a young woman’s parallel lives are determined by whether or not she catches a train. It is a story of what if? What if she had caught the train? How would that have effected her life? The Bookseller is that kind of story. What if?
This story is told in first person and at a steady pace that piqued my curiosity. Once Kitty starts having the dreams more of Katharyn’s life is revealed and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Katharyn is married to the love of her life and they live comfortably in a house in a wonderful neighborhood. They have a busy social life as well. Kitty is settled into her single life trying to keep her struggling bookstore afloat with her best friend Frieda as Main Street USA is giving way to shopping malls. I found both Kitty and Katharyn to be likable in very different ways. Katharyn is married with children and Kitty is a single professional, both lives that I have experienced and can relate to.
About halfway through the book Swanson introduces a subject matter that effects Katharyn and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly this story went from a fun read to something very real. I realized how closely my life resembles Katharyn’s. I could very much relate to her feelings and actions. At the same time I could relate to Kitty because at this point I could see where the book was going, although it still had one more plot twist in store.
When I was finished with the book I read the acknowledgements and was surprised to read that Swanson had researched this subject matter and knew nothing of it from first-hand experience. She was spot-on describing Katharyn’s feelings. It was as if she had drawn inspiration from my life and feelings. I was very grateful for her understanding.
I cried at parts and maybe that is because of my personal connection to the book, but I think it would have moved me even if this wasn’t the case. Swanson does a wonderful job of slowly revealing Katharyn’s life as well as describing Kitty’s reactions to experiencing this life in her dreams.
I was looking on Amazon to find other books from Swanson and was surprised to find that this is her first novel. I look forward to reading her next one.