The Bookshop at Water's End
Patti Callahan Henry
Berkley, 2017 (2017)
Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle
hen she was eleven years old, Bonny Blankenship's parents bought a summer house in Watersend, South Carolina without telling her and her brother that they were going to own the property until they arrived at the house. Now that she is a practicing ER doctor in Atlanta, almost forty years later, she treasures her memories of the three summers that her family spent in the house.
nother family shared in those summers, even though they didn't also share ownership. The parents were college friends of her parents and their children were Lainey McKay, who was Bonny's age, and her brother Owen, who was three years older. The two girls became inseparable during those summer vacations, and Owen joined them frequently. Bonny became enamored with Owen and has never quite forgotten him even though she is now married to another man. At the end of the third summer, there was an accident resulting in the arrest and disappearance of Lainey and Owen's mother. Bonny's parents never returned in subsequent summers, and turned the house into a rental. Now they have both died and she needs to get it ready to sell.
he story begins one night when Bonny is on duty and several accident victims arrive in the emergency room simultaneously. She is surprised and shocked to see the first badly injured man, who turns out to be Owen, whom she hasn't seen since just before her wedding. She gives him pain medicine and sends him off to surgery, and is flustered enough that when she attends to her next patient, an older man whose injuries appear to be life-threatening, she administers the same amount of pain medicine to him that Owen received, without checking his chart first to find out what he had been given in the ambulance.
fter he dies, she is placed on leave while the hospital determines whether this caused his death, and she loses a job opportunity that she was looking forward to as a means of leaving her extremely unhappy marriage. She returns to the beach house and talks her friend Lainey into joining her with her two small children. Lainey has never gotten over her mother's disappearance, and has even hired a private investigator to search for her. Bonny's teenage daughter also joins them, having flunked out of college and gotten in trouble for using drugs.
aybe this book just wasn't my cup of tea. I tried to care about these three women, but I found their predicaments and the all-consuming nature of them in their present lives to be incomprehensible. The most believable difficulties seem to be those of Bonny's daughter Piper. She has certainly gotten herself into a mess, and one can understand a nineteen year old obsessing about a boyfriend's betrayal.
ut why would an almost fifty year old doctor who has worked in the ER for many years never have seen someone in her care die after she treats them and wonder whether she contributed to his or her death? Why would a woman of the same age be so obsessed with searching for her mother that she neglects her loving husband and small children? After all of the angst of the characters throughout the book, everything is resolved satisfactorily, but I wasn't sure I could accept the happy ending any more than I could the excruciating attempts by Bonny, Lainey, and Piper to reach a place of self-awareness and acceptance.
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