Monday, August 2, 2021

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

The Last Chance Library
by Freya Sampson
Published August 2021 by Berkley Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.

Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer's feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won't believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.

To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she's determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too.

My Thoughts:
Poor June has lived most of her life hidden away from the world, maybe not literally, but most definitely figuratively, although she once had dreams of a bigger life. She has always been bookish, withdrawn and not like the other girls. She's grown up feeling like her mother was her only real ally and when her mother died, June was left adrift and with paralyzing grief. Years after her mother's death, June has not changed a single thing in the home they shared. She goes to work, she gets carryout from the Chen's takeout, and she spends her evenings at home alone, apart from her books and a dog who doesn't really like her. 

Let's see if you recognize June: she's the girl that goes to a hen party (aka bachelorette party) dressed as Hermoine Granger while all of the other young women are dressed up as sexy characters. When they play "never have I ever," June never has to take a drink, not even when one of the ladies cruelly throws in "never have I ever had sex." But she's also the person who helps an elderly gentleman sign into his email account every single day because he can't remember his password; she steers a bright young boy to the books that will challenge and entertain him; she treats the patron who complains about every single book she checks out with the same kindness as she does every other patron. You cannot help but cheer for her; she's a good person who deserves good things. 

You and I both know that a book that begins like that is going to end up with June finding her voice and her own life by the end of the book, probably a boyfriend and maybe even the family she didn't even know she'd had all along. Knowing that is one of the reasons I picked up this book - I needed a book that was going to give me exactly the ending I expected. Well, maybe not exactly the ending I was expecting. Sampson gave me just enough sadness to save the book from being too syrupy and threw in a couple of twists that kept things from becoming too predictable. It's light fare, to be sure; but sometimes light fare is just what you need.

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