First line: "This is not my bedroom."
In her debut novel, Cynthia Swanson answers the age-old query "what if" with a dream. In 1962 Kitty Miller is a thirty-something, single woman who co-owns a small Denver bookstore. Many women Kitty's age are married and raising families, but Kitty believes she is content and doesn't need anything more.
Then one night Kitty dreams of an alternate version of her life. The life she would have had if one phone call had lasted just a few minutes longer. Here Kitty, known as Katharyn, is married with children and no longer works in the bookstore. The lives of Kitty and Katharyn alternate as she continues to dream of this parallel universe, and a once content woman explores what could have been.
Numerous strong themes wind through Swanson's mid-century story. The role of women in society and their struggles to find a fulfilling equilibrium is superbly developed in everything from fashion to child rearing. Suburban sprawl and its effects influence the plot, bringing in the issue of change, a timeless topic. Finally an over-reaching message to appreciate what one has, foibles and all.
Swanson's background with the period's architecture infuses the setting with strikingly authentic backdrops while her meticulous research subtly illuminates language, behavior, Denver neighborhoods, even books. The Bookseller will delight bibliophiles with regular literary references.
The astute reader will likely anticipate various plot twists, but The Bookseller isn't meant to be a surprising thriller. This is the story of a woman coming to terms with who she is; both woman and novel are beautiful.
The Bookseller is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0062333001) from Harper. It is also available as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 978-1481524940), narrated by Kathe Mazur, from Blackstone Audio.