Review of “The Book Charmer” by Karen Hawkins

The first chapter of this book leads one to believe the story will be about magical books that speak, but that chapter is told from the perspective of Sarah Dove when she was only seven. Thereafter, the story moves to the present day, when it becomes not so much about “magic” books but a charming story of family, friendship, and hope.

Sarah Dove, 25, is now the town librarian, and she does indeed have a knack for making sure every book finds the reader who most needs it. Some in the town do think Sarah is capable of magic, but a close friend opines:

“A lot of people in Dove Pond believed that Sarah and her sisters had special abilities, but that was just gossip and nonsense. The Dove sisters just had hearts bigger than their heads. They cared more, perhaps, than they should, so their intuition was stronger than most.”

Sarah becomes convinced that the legendary Dove Pond good luck has arrived in the form of a new resident, Grace Wheeler. Grace had a difficult past: she and her sister Hannah had been repeatedly kicked out of foster homes until they got taken in by Mrs. Giano, or “Mama G” as they called her. Mama G became the rock upon which Grace grew and built her life. Grace eventually was able to get a high-powered job and was living in a nice apartment. It didn’t work out so well for Hannah, however, who repeatedly got into trouble. Then, two months earlier, she died from a drug overdose. Hannah had already dumped her illegitimate daughter Daisy, now 8, with Mama G.

On top of everything else, Mama G was showing signs of Alzheimer’s:

“Grace’s heart, already broken by Hannah’s death, had shattered. . . . now, quite suddenly, it was Grace’s turn to make things work and to take care of not just Mama G, but the recalcitrant Daisy as well.”

Grace quit her dream job, cashed in her retirement plan, paid off her lease, and took Mama G and Daisy back to Mama G’s home town of Dove Pond. A cousin of Mama G’s had offered them a rental house and even a job for Grace. It was only for “Town Clerk Level 1,” but had flexible hours so Grace could take care of her family. She even found a local woman, Linda Robinson, to look after Mama G when Grace was at work.

But Grace struggled with how to cope with Daisy: “Hannah’s death had left Grace aching, angry, and empty. But it was even harder for Daisy.” Daisy had sudden flares of anger and stubbornly refused to accept Grace as a parent.

As if Grace didn’t have enough on her plate, she quickly discovered through her work that the town was on the verge of financial ruin.

It appeared Grace and her family could use some magic in their lives, and there was plenty of it in Dove Pond. It came in the form of caring people with plenty of heart, and a handsome neighbor, Travis, with hurts of his own to overcome.

Mama G, in one of her lucid moments, said to Trav, whose nightmares from PTSD kept him up at night:

“You don’t sleep, so you get angry. It’s sad, but life is not fair. I sometimes think it was never supposed to be. Life is made up of moments, good and bad. But while you don’t get to pick all the moments, you do get to pick which ones you cling to.”

She added to him as well as Grace:

“‘You’ve both let your anger take over your lives, but it’s time for that to stop.’ She locked eyes with Trav and then put her hand on Grace’s shoulder. ‘One day, you’ll need to be there for her.’ . . ‘You and Sarah both. And Daisy too. You will need to be there together. Do you understand?’”

When trouble comes, Grace, Daisy, and Travis benefit from Mama G’s advise, and find a new understanding of love, community, and family.

Evaluation: While this story didn’t seem to match the publisher’s blurb, in my opinion, I actually liked it much better than I thought I would based on that initial impression. The story may be gooey with an improbably lovely outcome, but isn’t that what we need these days?

Rating: 4/5

Published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2019

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2 Responses to Review of “The Book Charmer” by Karen Hawkins

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I could definitely use a “gooey” book right about now.

  2. Beth F says:

    I skipped down your rating becasue I have this coming up for an AudioFile review and didn’t want to be influence. So happy it rated a 4.

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