The Bookseller Review
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Each life is made up of turning points—of decisions, both big and small, that determine its direction. It’s only natural to look back on these key moments and consider how they would have altered our lives. But in author Cynthia Swanson’s debut novel, The Bookseller, one woman’s what-ifs become all too real.

The Bookseller follows bookstore owner Kitty Miller as she finds herself traveling back and forth between her real life and a strange parallel existence in her dreams. It’s 1962, and 38-year-old Kitty is perfectly content with her unconventional lifestyle. She may live alone, but she gets all the love and support she needs from her parents and her best friend and business partner, Frieda. But then she begins dreaming about a different life—a life where she’s Katharyn Andersson, a wife and mother with a handsome husband, adorable children, and a gorgeous, modern home in the suburbs. At first, these dreams seem like a strange but enjoyable escape—but as her dream world becomes clearer and more focused, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur.

In the beginning, The Bookseller feels like a light and easygoing novel about the choices we make in life and the ways in which they affect our future. Though it gets off to a somewhat awkward start—sometimes trying a little too hard to establish the time period through songs, styles, and other current events—it quickly builds into an enjoyable period drama about the different paths to different lives. But the more time Kitty spends in her other life, the more it becomes clear that this isn’t just a story about escaping to a dream world that could have been.

Kitty soon discovers that this other world is far from perfect. She may have a devoted husband and beautiful children—and even a maid! But, in this parallel life, she finds herself dealing with disappointment and grief, as well as the guilt and insecurities that every mother experiences. What starts out as an imaginative escape becomes more challenging and even heart-breaking with each trip back to Katharyn’s world. And just as she’s often shocked by the way she lives her married-with-children life, she also begins to realize that her single life needs a change, too.

As these two worlds begin to twist and turn and even blend together, the story is sure to keep readers guessing how it’ll end—and even where it’ll end—until everything comes to a thoughtful yet bittersweet (and somewhat abrupt) conclusion.

Like the twists and turns of real life, the twists and turns of The Bookseller don’t always lead in the directions that you might expect. It has its good moments and bad, its successes and disappointments. But that’s what makes it a memorable read.

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