Generally speaking, I don't limit my reading to brand new releases. I like to dig around in the library and find books that I somehow missed. This week I came across one called "The Bookshop on the Corner," which was written by Jenny Colgan and published in 2016.
The main character in the book is a meek, mild-mannered, pushover of a librarian named Nina, who learns that the libraries in her area of England are all closing and being merged into one media center. She and all the other library staff have to interview for the small handful of jobs that will be available and she knows she won't be chosen. She realizes that her dream job is to help people find the perfect book, and since libraries are no more she decides the next best thing is to open a book store.
Finding a bit of strength within, she decides to move to Scotland and buy a large furniture truck and convert it to a mobile bookstore. She rents a house from a rude sheep farmer named Lennox and settles in to her new community. She falls in love with a train engineer named Marek and spends her free time leaving notes and gifts for him at a railroad crossing. Her best friend, Surinder, visits and is amazed by the change in her. Nina has finally found her voice and her place in the world.
This book was fun to read but a bit problematic towards the end. A side plot of Nina helping a teen girl is very quickly and neatly resolved when in reality the situation would be messy and take more time. The romance plot feels rushed and almost as though it were added as an afterthought during a revision. There's not enough time to build tension properly since the book focuses more on her evolution than on her love life, and the entire resolution of the romantic angle is a few snippets in the last thirty pages that feels like a postscript rather than a part of the story.
However, the rest of the book was easy to lose myself in the pages and I found myself wanting to see Nina succeed at following her dream in much the same way I'd feel supportive of a friend. On top of that, Colgan's description of the Scottish highlands is so vibrant that it made me want to pack up everything and move there too. The scenery evoked is breathtakingly stunning and if Colgan ever tires of writing fiction she could easily pick up a job writing tourism brochures.
The main focus of the book, of course, is Nina's decision to follow a dream and how she grows in doing so. It's here where Colgan really shines. Nina is a believable and fully realized character; a bookish person like myself would claim Nina as a friend if she were real. Throughout the book we watch Nina grow as a person, becoming more sure of herself as she discovers what she really wants out of life. The success she has with her store and with fitting in to a new community in an unfamiliar place is both inspiring and rewarding.
It's easy to cling to the familiar and find yourself in a rut, and Nina at first does the same. When she is forced by circumstance to change her career, she takes the riskier option of following her dream and it's such a motivating choice. It gives a sense that if quiet, shy Nina can pick up and start over and become the person she wants to be, then any of us can too. Granted, these situations don't generally work out so neatly in real life, but this book is wonderful at giving out hope that it won't be as harsh a struggle as we might fear.
And there is where this book really hits home - not in some sappy romance or even in some dream life in a new and beautiful locale - but in the very real balance of fears and hopes that we all have inside. For all its faults, it's a very realistic portrayal of that struggle within ourselves to find ways to live our best life without risking too much. From now on, when I find myself asking if a risk is worth it, I'll remember this book and think, "If Nina can do it, so can I." For that alone I'd recommend this book to anyone.
Speaking of recommendations, if you know a book that you think I must read, email me! I'm always on the lookout for my next favorite book, so please share yours with me.