• Sophia Hadef

Between reality and dreams, how trauma can affect someone's life: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson was published in 2015 by Harper.

I found this incredible story at Charlie Byrnes in Galway while wandering around the city on a rainy December day. I was astonished by the suspense and amazed by how easy I was immersed in the story.


The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams. Nothing is as permanent as it appears... Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped. Then the dreams begin. Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It's everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps. Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty or becoming Katharyn? As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

I was blown away by the intensity of Kitty/Katharyn's lives. Cynthia Swanson has the talent of bringing the reader through another dimension. The short chapters helped me dive into Kitty's strange dreams and question everything happening in her 'lives'. The suspense was the main asset of the book; it is a page-turner. I surprised myself thinking about it when I was not reading, questioning whether Kitty was having mental issues or if it was a supernatural story, someone from the 'other' world trying to contact her through different dreams about her life.

I loved how Cynthia approached mental disorders, how they can affect someone after a trauma, and how important it is to heal and talk about it. She also talks about autism through Katharyn's life, one of her triplets is an autist, and we follow Katharyn and her husband Lars trying to help Michael, their kid. The plot is set in the '60s, and I also really liked the approach to motherhood of the time and how mothers who were working were seen as bad parent. How autism was suspected to be the mother's responsibility. It was challenging to share Kitty/Katharyn's feelings, but it was also helpful to understand those situations. The story also reflects on how relationships can change and how everything in life can be saved and healed with patience and trust.

This book is compelling. I recommend it without a doubt.

Here is the Goodreads link.

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