First Lines of Prologue: "2017. The doors are new: Automatic open. Fancy. That has changed since Aidan was here last."
Summary: Mukesh, a widower with three daughters, is still struggling with grief over the loss of his wife. She always loved to read. Mukesh never understood this love, but maybe if he tries reading one of her books he will feel closer to her. When his daughters find one of her books under the bed, a library book, he decides to read it before returning it.
Aleisha works at the local library. It was a job her older brother recommended to her. The problem is Aleisha doesn't read. It is her brother who loves to read. So when Mukesh arrives at the library asking for recommendations for something to read, Aleisha doesn't know what to tell him. She feels guilty for treating him rudely and determines to remedy the situation by reading the first book from a handwritten list she found in a library book. The next time Mukesh comes into the library, Aleisha is able to recommend To Kill a Mockingbird to him. The reading list creates a bond between them and helps them both to overcome difficulties in their lives.
My thoughts: The storyline of this book is very unique. It revolves around a handwritten reading list found by one of the characters. This is the thread that weaves the story together. Also, the layout of the book is a bit unique. The book is separated into sections named after a book on the list and follows the characters as they are reading that particular book. Within each section, each chapter is labeled with a character's name and sometimes a date. This sounds like it could be confusing, but was very easy to follow.
The characters are wonderful. They are complicated, deep and full of life. Mukesh is still grieving the loss of his wife and feels adrift. His daughters treat him like he is old and feeble. He feels lonely and wishes he had a deeper relationship with his daughters and grandchildren. Aleisha has a difficult home life, but it is all she knows. Her father left several years ago and since then her mom has not been the same. She has good days and bad days. But more often, her days are bad. Aleisha and her older brother, Aidan, take care of her. They both have jobs to support the family and one of them must be home at all times. It is a lot for a seventeen year old to handle.
The importance of books to bring people together is the main theme in this story. The author did an outstanding job of showing this. Some of the other themes are grief, loneliness, family - both biological and found, friendship and stepping out of your comfort zone.
There is content that might be a concern to some - suicide, mental illness and some profanity.
Overall, this is a heartwarming, hopeful story full of deep, interesting characters.
"The city had been so large, so vast and lonely sometimes, finding lists was like finding tiny moments of human connection, where she could prove that the silent strangers who walked past her, avoiding eye contact, were people too. They wrote shopping lists, they planned their dinners, they added some treats in every so often - the lists grounded her."
"'Please try to remember that books aren't always an escape; sometimes books teach us things. They show us the world; they don't hide it."