Monday, January 27, 2020

Book Review: The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

The Secrets of Paper and Ink

The Secrets of Paper and Ink
Author:  Lindsay Harrel
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson (2019)
326 pages

Sophia Barrett, a women's counselor, has spent the last three months doing little more than reading and napping.  This was how she was healing after having a mental breakdown in a grocery store on the one year anniversary of her fiancee's death.  Her best friend and boss, gave her three months' paid leave from work to heal.  But now she's ready to get back to work.  At least she thought she was until her first client is an abuse victim.  The client lied and said she was seeking counseling for anxiety.  Not only did Sophia's fiancee die, but he had also been abusing her.  The client's story brings back far too many memories and she flees the counseling session.  When her boss finds her at a book store, she encourages her to take the summer off.  That is the last thing Sophia wants to do, but realizes it is what she must do.  But, she can't spend every day for the next three months napping and reading.  As she is rereading one of her favorite books that takes place in Cornwall, England, she spontaneously decides to spend her three months there.

Ginny Rose and her husband Garrett moved to Cornwall, England five years ago to realize Garrett's dream of opening a book store.  Several months ago, Garrett decided he needed to find himself and went to live in London for a while in order to do so.  Ginny was left to run the bookstore.  Rosebud Books is in financial trouble.  After being denied a loan from the local bank, Ginny is desperate to find a way to bring in more money.  There is a flat above the book store that has been sitting empty.  She cleans it up and puts an ad on a vacation rental site.  

When Sophia sees the ad for the flat, it sounds perfect to her.  She books it for the summer and makes her way to Cornwall.  Sophia and Ginny connect instantly.  While Sophia is helping out at the book store she comes across a notebook in a box of donated books.  It is a story about a woman named Emily who lived in the late 1800's.  Who wrote it?  Is it real or fiction?  Sophia wants to discover all she can about the notebook.

The novel follows three story lines; Sophia's, Ginny's and Emily's.  The chapters alternate between the three voices.  It was so interesting to see the three stories come together showing the beautiful way God can work in our lives.  The importance of story was illustrated in the way Sophia used books to heal.  She would read her favorite books over and over and this brought her comfort.  She also deeply connected with Emily's story and felt compelled to find out more about it.  This also helped her heal.  While this is a story about healing, it is also about friendship and family dynamics.  There is some romance and the mystery of the notebook.  The descriptions of the small village of Port Willis in Cornwall were delightful and made me want to visit.  The one weakness in the novel for me was the faith theme.  There was very little mention of the place that faith played in any of the characters lives in the first part of the book, or maybe it was just very subtle.  So, I found it unrealistic when later in the book Sophia, after reading a few sentences written by Emily, realizes that what has been missing in her life is faith in God and that she is "slowly opening myself back up to that childlike faith I had once upon a time".  I didn't realize she previously had a "childlike faith".   But, even with that weakness, this was a delightful read.

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