Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
Published May 2014 by Penguin Group
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.
If you've read and enjoyed any of Jio's previous novels, you'll find exactly what you've come to expect from Jio in Goodnight June and you're certain to enjoy it. As with her previous novels, Jio once again develops two story lines, one set in the past, one set in the present, with love stories in each plot line. You may often find yourself saying "well of course that happened" or "isn't that just a bit too pat?" or "really???" And yet...
In Goodnight June the story line set in the past is told entirely through a set of letters which allows Jio to tie their story in better with the present day story line than I felt Jio was able to do with Violets of March, her debut novel. Jio takes on a number of themes here (sisters, love, grief, family relationships, death, betrayal, and corporate America) with varying degrees of success but most of it works and I came to really care about June as see grieved for her aunt, lost love, and her relationship with her sister and struggled to come to grips with the person she had become.
Not many books can make me tear up; Jio succeeded in doing just that. Sure it was manipulative but even though I knew what was coming, it was still hard to read and still pulled at my heartstrings. I appreciated that Jio didn't tie everything up in a tidy little happily-ever-after in the end, either. There is just enough sadness, meanness, to make things feel a bit more real, leaving me satisfied. And you've gotta love a novel that ties in the beloved Goodnight Moon.