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The Bookshop at Water's End


The Bookshop at Water's End

“We believed in magic and in rivers, and that quite possibly they were one and the same.”So begins Patti Callahan Henry’s latest novel about the power of our past and how it affects our present and, possibly, our future.

Bonny Blankenship is a harried working mother on the edge. As if being an emergency room doctor at a busy Charleston hospital wasn’t stressful enough, Bonny’s daughter Piper is being kicked out of college after a disastrous freshman year, and Bonny is planning on leaving her husband of over 20 years and moving to Atlanta. But when her first love makes an unexpected appearance --- wheeled into her emergency room on a gurney after an accident --- Bonny makes a tragic mistake that might have resulted in the death of a patient. One split-second decision, and her career and future hang in the balance as she waits out the results of the hospital’s investigation.

"[THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER’S END] has all the earmarks of a classic Patti Callahan Henry novel...all of which serve to make this a satisfying summer read."

Since the waiting and not knowing is agony, Bonny decides that a change of scenery will help clear her head. So she retreats to her family’s cottage on the river at Watersend, South Carolina. With both her parents gone, she has been meaning to fix it up in order to put it on the market. Maybe bringing Piper will help the 18-year-old figure out her own priorities. But a trip to the cottage wouldn’t be the same without her childhood friend, Lainey.

Now in her early 50s, Lainey McKay is an established artist living in Northern California with her loving husband and two children. As an 11-year-old, Lainey, her brother, Owen, and her parents were guests of the Blankenships at the river house, and it was here she met Bonny, who would become her best friend for life. Dubbing themselves the “Summer Sisters,” the pair spent every waking moment of that first summer together, hanging in the air-conditioned sanctuary of the local bookstore or solving local mysteries like their idol, Nancy Drew. They didn’t know it back then, but the two were forming a solid support system that they each had come to lean on during difficult times.

Lainey’s family life might have looked idyllic from the outside --- handsome father, beautiful model-like mother, adventurous brother --- but things were far from perfect. Her family was crumbling from the inside out. Lainey’s mother, Clara, although beautiful, was an addict, given to rages and then to long, stony silences. Her father was ill-equipped to deal with his wife’s issues and even more at sea about how to keep his fractured family together. After an explosive second summer, Lainey’s mother was arrested and then promptly disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Over the years, Lainey had hired private detectives to try and track her mother down but to no avail. She didn’t want to leave her comfortable life in California, but could not turn her back on her lifelong friend. Being back at the scene of such tumult in her life may seem daunting, but perhaps she can introduce her son and daughter to Watersend, to show them (and possibly herself) that it wasn’t all bad. And maybe she can spend some time with Owen, who has spent the last few decades living like an extreme sports junkie, channeling his energy into adrenalin rushes rather than alcohol and drugs like their mother. Can this trip be a balm for their battered pasts, or will it just open old wounds?

A new book from Patti Callahan Henry is becoming a welcome signpost of summer, much like Elin Hilderbrand’s June novels. Her stories transport readers to languorous, warm days in the South, where you can almost smell the Spanish moss and feel the humidity on your skin. And while THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER’S END may not be the strongest in her canon (my personal favorite is COMING UP FOR AIR), it still has all the earmarks of a classic Patti Callahan Henry novel --- old friends reuniting to help each other through a rough patch; returning to a part of the past in order to heal the future; atmospheric locales peopled by strong women struggling to find their place in the world --- all of which serve to make this a satisfying summer read. In the words of Bonny, “….sometimes you have to leave home to find it.”

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on July 12, 2017

The Bookshop at Water's End
by Patti Callahan Henry

  • Publication Date: July 11, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0399583114
  • ISBN-13: 9780399583117