Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I love Margaret Wise Brown's classic children's books, and so when I saw this novel by Sarah Jio in the book store, it sounded made for me.
It's about June Anderson, a New York city banker, who comes home to Seattle to dispose of her recently deceased great-aunt's book store, Bluebird Books, which she has inherited. It turns out that her aunt was close friends with Margaret Wise Brown, and not only had she saved her correspondence with the late author, but she actually (in this novel) had a lot to do with the creation of "Goodnight Moon."
Add to this an estranged sister, a new love interest who runs the restaurant next door, and a creepy rich woman who's after something, and it sounds great, right? Well, not so much, unfortunately.
Let me start with what I *did* like. The series of letters between June's great aunt Ruby and "Brownie" were wonderful, and the high point of the book, to me. I can also say that this is an easy, fluffy read, and despite what follows, I did enjoy it to some degree.
How did this book fall short? Let me count the ways. Let's start with Gavin, the restauranteur next door. He's handsome, he cooks, he likes kids, he's way understanding and supportive, and after running into June out on her morning jog, he is instantly smitten. Seriously, he goes from "So, are you from around here?" to "Let's get married, combine our businesses, raise kids together, and oh by the way, I brought you dinner" in about three days time. Naturally, she feels the same, and even though she never gives the poor guy more than a kiss, he's madly in love. Also, he grins a lot. A LOT.
What else? There's June's younger sister Amy, who has done something wicked and evil to her, to the point that June wants no more to do with her, ever. This has gone on for years, but it's all solved in about two paragraphs, and a festival of hugs and tears not only makes everything all right again, but June adopts Amy's newborn baby after Amy expires of cancer a few pages later. Look, *I* didn't write this crap, that's really what happens.
Ditto for June the shark banker lady who, after a few days in Seattle, bopping around the bookstore finding the letters from Ruby to Brownie, decides to quit her job, sell her NYC apartment and save the bookstore she had come there planning to sell off. Every decision this woman makes, every major life change, is arrived at nearly instantaneously, and pretty much painlessly. There are no gradual changes, no believable progressions, no long internal struggles. Nope. In about three weeks, this chick completely changes her life and world view, snaps up the Perfect Boyfriend, adopts a newborn, makes up with her tragically dying sister, and--ta da!--saves the book store, complete with cameos from Bill Gates and Clive Cussler.
Did you think that was all? More than enough, maybe? There is still the cherry on top, the most barf-worthy scene in the book, where June's creepy adversary, May (May and June...cute, right? Hurl.), who has done everything from spying on June, to breaking into and ransacking her book store, walks in just as June is discovering that they both had the same father, and so they are sisters, and oh gosh, hug cry kiss, that turns out wonderfully, too! And then unicorns dance through the room and...okay, I made up the unicorns, but geez. Skip this.
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