In The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson, we meet Kitty Miller. She has chosen a life in the early 60s of unconventionality. Teaming up with her best friend they open a bookshop, and she is in control of her own destiny. Her life is everything she hoped for, but that is when the dreams begin.
In her dreams she is Katharyn Andersson, married to Lars with beautiful children and a lovely home. The dreams are wonderful and exciting, irresistible and romantic, and she is sad when she awakes each time. Yet soon the dreams seem to come more frequently, intruding on her daily activities.
While she loves being with her dream husband and children, she is beginning to lose pieces of who she is as Kitty. The bookshop is no longer as successful and she and her friend Frieda must make a decision to move forward. Yet her dreams begin to seem more real than her life at the bookshop and make her wonder. Does she have a choice in what she wants in life?
As the dreams become more real, she suddenly finds she has another child. She is shamed and mortified at her reaction to him. She tries hard to be there, and Lars is beginning to have impatience with her lack of responsiveness. No long quite as enamored of her dream world, she strives to reduce the amount of dreaming that occurs. She even shares her concerns with her dream husband.
Now there is a strange and disturbing thought that she is no longer sure which life is the dream life, and she must make a decision as to what is happening in her life for her to be whole again. Which one is her real life and can she find a way to connect the two, or is a dream just that–a dream?
I was riveted to this book from the beginning. There is a quality of hope and beauty in the world of dreams and yet, with the mystery of who Kitty (Katharyn) really is, you find yourself propelled forward in a fantastic array of choices and life decisions that motivate and move you. You will find both sides of this eclectic woman to be likable yet with the same flaws that we understand to be human. There is a hope that is engendered as you read through the pages, and yet there is also fear and concern that make you care about both Kitty and her friend Frieda.
Swanson takes us to an uncomfortable place and finds a way to move us as though we are a part of the process. You feel for each whether it is Kitty or Katharyn. They seem so alike and yet so far apart, but together they seem to become whole.
This is a great work of subterfuge and red herrings, a mystery and yet a love story. It is also a story of hurt and tragedy, and a distinct trek into the differing directions of coping.
This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group.
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