This book was recommended to me by a coworker as “a perfect story of a marriage”. I read it in one sitting and went through an emotional wringer while riding an emotional roller coaster while seriously needing a glass of wine and therapy. Trigger warning: if you have ever been disappointed, betrayed, disillusioned or in any way wronged by a lover/spouse and gone through the painful process of recovery from that trauma, this book is going to bring it all back in exquisitely excruciating detail. But you should probably read it anyway. It’s that good.
The cat on the cover of this book does not even come close to the description of the cat inside the book. But that’s a minor detail. This was another one of those books that I have no idea why I put it on hold, but I did, and I enjoyed it well enough once it came, so why waste time wondering? Think Storied Life of A.J Fikry meets Bridget Jones’ Diary meets the Gen Y/Millennial equivalent of Generation X, and you’ll have a pretty good feel for this book.
Maggie, our protagonist, moved to San Francisco from South Carolina during the dot-com boom and started a company with her best friend since childhood, Dizzy, a software engineer. But the company becomes successful and is purchased by a larger company, and Maggie’s job is outsourced. Dizzy (still employed) tries everything to get Maggie “out there”, scheming to get her involved with a book group of high-powered women for the networking and nagging her to follow up on various opportunities. But Maggie is far more interested in spending her days in the decrepit used bookstore (Dragonfly Books) owned by her landlord, Hugo, where she spends all day every day reading romance novels. She knows she needs a job – her money is running out and she is growing increasingly desperate as her mother begs her to move home and get married like a good girl – but she just can’t seem to find the motivation.
Hugo gives Maggie a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover to read for the book (networking) club, and inside Maggie finds love notes written in the margins by Henry and Katherine, presumably two customers of Dragonfly Books. The notes show a growing intimacy between the two and end with a proposed meeting, and Maggie is entranced – who were/are Henry and Catherine? Did they ever meet? Why did they stop writing messages in the book? In an attempt to impress one of the book club members who might be able to help her find her a job, Maggie offers to help Hugo make the Dragonfly more successful by promoting it on social media. She posts some of the notes between Henry and Catherine, and business booms so enthusiastically that Maggie eventually receives an incredibly lucrative job offer…working for another bookstore across the street that is part of a commercial chain. But in the process of working at the Dragonfly, Maggie has fallen in love with the used bookstore’s quirky charm and become fiercely loyal to its clientele. Soul searching ensues….
Oh, and there’s a cute boyfriend who she can’t fully enjoy because of past issues with her parents’ marriage, repeating conflict with a cranky employee of the Dragonfly who resents her interference, and some self-confidence problems from always playing second fiddle to Dizzy’s genius to spice things up. Oh, and a psychopathic store cat. You’ll be a little annoyed with Maggie for her habit of (repeatedly!) shooting herself in the foot (in both life and love), but you’ll root for her anyway.