Book Review: The Bookshop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry

With the door open, I swung my feet onto the soft grass. Dad’s back was to me as he stood in front of the wooden sign. Welcome to Watersend. He ran his hand across the top edge of it. We’d never been here; I’d never seen this sign, and my heart did a quick step, just like I was scared, but I wasn’t. I was happy. This was a new something in the world. But I didn’t know yet what. There was an expectation that I was at the edge of a cliff and I would soon be able to fly.

After a tragic disappearance strikes the town of Watersend, the Moreland and McKay families choose never to return with the hopes of forgetting what once was. Years later, Bonny Blankenship, formerly Moreland, is struggling to escape the vice grip of a controlling marriage while keeping her career and responsibility as a mother on track. With a new job in the works and having spent time and money to fix up the old family cabin in Watersend, much to the chagrin of her friend Lainey McKay, she is on the brink of a new start. However, fate has other plans.

Past and present blended. He was flat on the stretcher with his eyes closed; he was flat on a warm splinter dock in South Carolina, holding my hand and stargazing. He was calling my name in pain; he was whispering my name to jump into the river. He was holding his arm above his head with a broken bone; he was waving at me across the beach. He was old and he was young and we had ll of our life ahead of us and then none at all.

Bonny’s past comes crashing into her present when the love of her life, who she hasn’t seen in over two decades, arrives seriously injured into her emergency room where he requires her care. She is transported back to her summers in Watersend, South Carolina where she spent her adolescence with her best friend Lainey and Lainey’s older brother Owen.

With that touch, I was thirteen years old again, on the cusp of all the good things in the world, all the possibility and wonder and million chances for happiness. Blue Popsicle juice stained my cheeks and sand crusted on my hands and the soles of my feet. My skin was prickly and tender with sunburned while I sat around a bonfire and whispered secrets with my Summer Sister, Lainey.

For a moment she forgets herself, forgets that she is an emergency room doctor in the midst of a series of critical traumas. When she regains her bearings, she has lost track of her tasks and makes a choice that sends ripples throughout her life and changes her future as a doctor, wife and mother.

“Lucas, I might have killed someone. A life is gone and it might be my fault. I have spent my entire life saving lives. Now I can’t sleep without nightmares. The slightest sound send my adrenaline into overdrive. And I can’t think or breathe.

Slightly lost and desperate for peace, Bonny and her daughter Piper return to Watersend. Bonny hopes to recalibrate her life a hope she shares for her daughter who has also fallen slightly off course in her first year at college. Their arrival is witnessed by Mimi, the local bookshop owner and keeper of the towns secrets.

Her mother had been the same, almost floating through childhood with her best friend, Lainey. They came in here for the same reasons- cold air and escape. Two little girls who were so close it seemed that they’d been sewn together by the seams of their flowered sundresses. History, they say, repeats itself. I surely hoped not.

When Lainey arrives with her children, she and Bonny begin to reminisce and the reasons they left in that summer long ago seep into every crack and crevice of the beach house. A tangled web of friendship, family, romance and tragedy is weaved with imaginative prose and the scent of salt in the air. The Bookshop at Water’s End is a heartfelt story of the toll our past can take and the freedom found in forgiveness.

No one knew what would happen next or how. There were personal narratives so convoluted and yet there we were filing a house with talk and food and drink, with stories and laughter- and love, most of all. Maybe that was all that mattered, not the untangling, not the fixing, not the “figuring it out”, but the love itself. And the forgiving- that, too.

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A review copy of this title was provided by Berkley Publishing

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Bookshop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry

  1. Wow, that sounds like a complex novel full of layers and feelings, and beautiful prose, if what you shared is what the whole piece is like. I love the image of the girls being sewn together by their sundress seams.

    Liked by 1 person

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