Publisher: Gallery, Threshold.
Publish Date: 20th August 2013
Format: e-book - Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn't look brighter. Until she finds out she's pregnant.
Esme's boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme - just before she tries to tell him she is pregnant - she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship , while finding a part-time job to make ends meet.
The Owl is a shabby, second-hand book store on the Upper West Side, an all-day and all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: guitar player Luke, George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism,and a motley crew of homeless.
I was attracted to this book by the beautiful cover and the title. What reader could resist it? Well not me, it sounded like a book I would really enjoy. After reading the first twenty percent, I was not sure I liked it. Deciding to persevere, I read on, by the end of the book I was reconsidering my first impression.
I like to enjoy characters, however Mitchell really jarred with me. Every time he was 'on stage' I needed a throw-up bucket! I survived by throwing down all the words onto a page of my notebook that described him. Barney, towards the end of the book sums him up as he speaks to the baby. And while it was crude, as far as I was concerned, an understatement! The author really succeeded showing the reader the kind of character he is. What got to me was that Esme persists in looking at him with rose tinted spectacles. I kept thinking, surely this time!
I like strong women in the books I read. Esme wasn't coming up to my expectations, when suddenly I thought - wait! Esme is only 23 years old. She has come to a new country and immersed herself in a new culture, she finds herself pregnant and has to deal with it, while keeping up her study. She is very caring and changes in no small way towards the homeless she meets in her little patch of New York. By the end of this book there is a sense of she is going to be a good mother - she is going to be alright. She has done well in this nine or ten months of her life. I hold hope for her!
The bookstore lives up to expectation. It's the kind of shop many a reader would love to wander around in. It did irk me a little when small digs were made about Barnes and Noble and Amazon. I believe there is a place for all, the world is changing - enjoy it. George the owner is a loveable character, he gives Esme a job even though it is illegal to do so. He and the other men are so ordinary and yet so wonderful. They make family for Esme and the little one, when born. They are the direct opposite of the esteemed Mitchell!
There are many obscure references to books, art, directors of film and so on. I could count on one hand the number I recognised! I did what I advise my students when they meet an odd looking name, read it any way you want and move on! The book is written present tense, first person point of view. Not my favourite, but it was okay. There are a couple of laugh out moments - genuinely good - savour them, because that's it. Oh, they are towards the end of the book, so read on!
This book would make an interesting book for a book club read, I am sure it would engender plenty of discussion.