A novel written with book people in mind, this is a delightful examination of how reading can change lives and bring people together, which is, of course, a topic near and dear to my heart. I will not tell a lie, the analysis of the titles on the list is surface at best, but the book isn’t really about the books, it is about the people reading them.
Mukesh is a widower who is struggling with his loss. He eats the same thing every week, he hardly goes out, and his daughters and grand children can’t seem to connect with him the way they did with their mother. Mukesh’s beloved wife was a reader and he decides in an almost desperate attempt to remain close to her to go to the library after reading a library book he found while tidying up over a year after her death.
There he meets Aleisha, a library employee (not a librarian, as she is referred to in the book. This is a bone of contention for librarians who have advanced degrees, but I digress…). She is not a reader, and she is having a bad day. After her mistreatment of Mukesh and the subsequent berating by her boss, she calls to apologise and make a peace offering—a book recommendation from a mysterious reading list.
The list cycles through several people. Some characters only appear for a scene, but the list binds them all together, and it is a good list, though the connections between titles are not evident at first. Through the course of reading the books on the list, Aleisha and Mukesh become friends, grow, and are able to cope with the difficulties life throws at them. As Mukesh says, the books are not just an escape, they teach us things. Indeed, they do.
There is plenty here for bookish types. Favorites are read and loved by characters, geezers get second chances, a young girl learns that she doesn’t have to handle things on her own. This book is like a warm cup of tea. Comforting, familiar, peaceful, and enjoyable. Sure, there is a little bitterness near the end of the cup, but that just makes the next cup sweeter. If you are a book person, you will want to add this to your reading list (pun definitely intended).