THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER’S END, BY PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY
PUBLICATION: BERKLEY; JULY 11, 2017
About the book: The women who spent their childhood summers in a small southern town discover it harbors secrets as lush as the marshes that surround it…
Bonny Blankenship’s most treasured memories are of idyllic summers spent in Watersend, South Carolina, with her best friend, Lainey McKay. Amid the sand dunes and oak trees draped with Spanish moss, they swam and wished for happy-ever-afters, then escaped to the local bookshop to read and whisper in the glorious cool silence. Until the night that changed everything, the night that Lainey’s mother disappeared.
Now, in her early fifties, Bonny is desperate to clear her head after a tragic mistake threatens her career as an emergency room doctor, and her marriage crumbles around her. With her troubled teenage daughter, Piper, in tow, she goes back to the beloved river house, where she is soon joined by Lainey and her two young children. During lazy summer days and magical nights, they reunite with bookshop owner Mimi, who is tangled with the past and its mysteries. As the three women cling to a fragile peace, buried secrets and long ago loves return like the tide.
I’m so happy to bring you my review of Patti Callahan Henry’s upcoming novel, The Bookshop at Water’s End. This was such a beautiful novel full of sadness, happiness, closure, and new beginnings.
Bonny is a successful ER doctor, in a loveless marriage, and makes a horrible mistake one hectic night while on duty. Needing to take some time for herself, she heads to her family’s cottage in Watersend, SC. Piper, Bonny’s twenty-year-old daughter comes along reluctantly after a string of troubles and her boyfriend heading to Europe with another girl. Bonny also convinces her best friend Lainey and her children to join them at the river house for vacation, although Lainey doesn’t want to return to the place with such horrible memories.
Bonny and Lainey were the best of friends when they visited the house in Watersend as children. Lainey’s older brother Owen was typically with them, resulting in his becoming Bonny’s first love. Now that they are adults, Bonny and Owen have stayed in touch throughout the years, expressing their affections, however, Bonny has been busy with her career, her daughter, and stuck in an unhappy marriage. Owen, on the other hand, has been living a life of adventure traveling from one place to the next – but never settling down. Lainey still tries to locate her mother, wondering if she is dead or alive, and constantly misses her brother, wondering why he won’t answer and/or return her calls, longing to re-connect with her only family. Immediately, the bond between Bonny and Lainey was evident, although, it didn’t take long to notice the strain between them, which was Owen.
Piper has made some not unusual teenage/young adult mistakes including failing out of school, drinking, etc. She starts her summer at Watersend miserable about her boyfriend leaving the country with another girl, but quickly finds her own niche in Mimi’s bookshop. She also meets a handsome and incredibly kind young man, Fletch, who she finds herself quickly drawn to. Most surprisingly is Piper’s relationship with Lainey’s young children George and Daisy. Where Piper initially dreaded having to help take care of them for the summer, she quickly bonds with the young children and enjoys their time together.
This novel portrays three very different women facing very different challenges in their lives, yet there is still a strong bond between them. They have good days and bad days, hurt each other and pick the other up when needed. The author demonstrates that no matter what age, profession, marital status, etc., we all face challenges stemming from our pasts and what to do with our futures. They each were holding onto good things and painful things in their lives, as well as, trying to figure out meaning and purpose in their lives.
Patti Callahan Henry’s writing was beautiful and flawless as always, prompting me to re-read several lines while reading simply because the words touched me. The novel touches on love, friendship, fear, regret, guilt, and hope. It reminded me that sometimes we choose our family or they choose us, and there is no one meaning of happiness. Various times throughout the novel, particularly related to Lainey and her mother that disappeared, the author references part of a poem which fit perfectly into this novel:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. (taken from Mary Oliver’s, “Wild Geese“)
The beauty of that verse from the poem is that it applied to everyone in the novel, as well as, to so many people in our own lives.
The Bookshop at Water’s End is absolutely one of the best novels that I have read. It embodies so much emotion and experience that it’s impossible not to reflect on your own life after reading. I cannot recommend this one enough, and it releases July 11.
*Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review!