This was not the book I was expecting , but I am very much richer for the experience. This is the story of Lydia a bookseller with a nice boyfriend, with a reasonable apartment in an up and coming part of town. A bibliophile, respected and adored at work, but secretly a piece of human flotsam. Running from a childhood trauma she hides in plain sight with the “book frogs”, the disenfranchised homeless and friendless who make the bookshop a home away from home.
The death of Joey one of her young regulars by his own hand, there in the shop where he and Lydia both had found succour and solace,sets off a chain of events that will leave Lydia reeling. Joey’s Sudden and rash act whilst in possession of something he had no earthly business having and the resulting mysterious messages seemingly from the grave that he has left for Lydia embedded in books, bring the vivid and terrifying events of another winter night so many years before into vivid relief for Lydia again.
Lydia and everyone she has sought to avoid or protect are forced into an unavoidable collision, where truths can bring nothing but heartbreak.
I loved this book for its gritty but sympathetic treatment of people kept on the periphery of society. Lydia’s youth was tainted by tragedy, her future is even now foreshadowed because of that and ultimately no-one truly escapes this story unscathed. The cleverly twisty plot provides a satisfying mystery but also asks the reader to examine the true nature of cause and effect. The innocent and the guilty are all scalded by the revelations found within.
I was gripped by this story, where nothing is quite what it appears, It is a quest for a catharsis for Lydia. This journey piecing together the tattered remnants of another person’s trauma so intrinsically linked with her own means she is ends up no longer a helpless child in an adult’s body, but is ultimately a stronger and more emotionally rounded person, ready to embark on life unencumbered by the ominous weight of the past but changed indelibly.
Many thanks to Netgalley, Penguin Random House and author Matthew Sullivan for the privilege of reading this book prior to realease on August the 24th 2017.