The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson is a fiction novel about a young woman’s quest/mission to save her dead uncle’s bookshop from closing. She frequented this bookshop with her uncle when she was a child and has fond memories there. The story begins with the main character, Miranda, telling us a story from her childhood about how her uncle Billy bought her a golden retriever dog and how that was the last time she saw him. Her uncle had missed her birthday celebrations and had come by the house early in the morning; Miranda was supposed to be asleep, but she wasn’t and ran to the top of the stairs hoping she would get a chance to spend a little time with or at least see her uncle before going to bed. Instead, she saw her mother and uncle in a heated argument and was forced to go back to bed. So she did. She was twelve years old when she witnessed this unusual interaction between her mom and uncle. But she never forgot about it.
Fast forward 10-15 years – Miranda is living in Philadelphia as a history teacher. She recently moved in with a boyfriend she had been dating named Jay. They seem to get along reasonably well and like each other enough to spend extended periods of time together. Miranda explains that when she was a little girl, she would always look forward to spending time with uncle Billy because he always prepared fun scavenger hunts for her to go on leading her to a surprise. Well, one day she receives a phone call from her mother that her uncle Billy has died. Not long after she receives this news, she gets something in the mail and she realizes that somehow her uncle has arranged a scavenger hunt for her to complete after his passing. She is eager to figure out what it is she is supposed to find and decides that she will attend her uncle’s funeral in California.
She tells Jay that she is going but doesn’t invite him along because she doesn’t plan on staying longer than a week or two and doesn’t really want him around. Miranda stays with her parents while she is in California and heads to her uncle Billy’s funeral alone taking the first clue of the scavenger hunt with her. She saw some people at his funeral that she didn’t recognize and after the funeral was over, Billy’s lawyer approached her letting her know that he needed to speak with her regarding her uncle’s estate and that he had something to give her. At first Miranda was surprised because she didn’t know that Billy had an estate and also excited because she believed that the lawyer had the next clue she needed in the scavenger hunt. When Miranda tells her parents what happened at the funeral ceremony, her mother insists on going with her to meet the lawyer tomorrow.
At the meeting the next day, Miranda learns that Billy owned Prospero Books (the bookstore he would take her to when she was little) and had left the bookstore and upstairs apartment to her. The lawyer mentioned that the apartment has been cleaned for her. Her mother is also shocked at this news, but Miranda is not sure they are shocked for the same reasons. Miranda and the lawyer have to schedule another meeting since Miranda’s mother got impatient after she realized Billy left the bookstore to Miranda. Before Miranda and her mother leave, the lawyer hands Miranda an envelope from Billy – the next clue in the scavenger hunt. The story takes us through Miranda’s journey trying to save the bookstore, getting to know the employees of the bookstore better, figuring out this scavenger hunt, getting to the bottom of this secret her parents seem to be keeping from her and dealing with her pseudo relationship with Jay. She recognizes one of the employees, Malcolm the manager, as one of the ceremony speakers at Billy’s funeral.
Miranda’s scavenger hunt takes her on an unexpected journey to figuring out Billy’s past, her mother, and most importantly – herself. After reading the title of the book, I knew I was going to buy it because I love bookstores/bookshops; after reading the summary I was curious as to what this story would be like. I didn’t really know what to expect and have to admit I wasn’t disappointed. I thought the book was delightfully funny and realistic; the book had some twists and spins. It is well written, it’s not a story line that I’ve seen often and had trouble putting the book. I had questions, where will the scavenger hunt lead Miranda? What does she find out about the argument between her mother and Billy on her birthday? Will she continue to be a history teacher or quit and become full-time business owner of Prospero Books? What will happen to Miranda and Jay? I just had to know the answers to these questions and some others too.
Honestly, I loved this book; it is has the few elements that I like in a book: humor, a book about books and/or a bookstore, a mystery or puzzle to figure out and a little bit of romance. It’s the perfect mix of all of these things while also presenting a cast of characters that are easy to relate to. The book was a page turner and I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next; I would describe it as suspenseful unless you’re able to read most or all of it in one sitting. I found this book at the local used bookstore and am not sure if libraries are carrying this book since I’d never heard of this novel until stumbling across it at the store. It never hurts to check with your local library if you’d rather not buy it. If you do want to buy a copy, Barnes and Noble has the paperback (new release) edition for $16.99 ($11.89 for Members) and Amazon sells the paperback for $9.95 (a Prime item too)!
Until next week!