In 2005, June Andersen is a high-powered New York financier responsible for foreclosing on small businesses that have missed too many mortgage payments. She's the type of person that owners of Mom-and-Pop stores love to hate, for good reason... and although she's very good at her job, her blood pressure is soaring, and she doesn't like what she's become.
When she receives word about the death of her Great-Aunt Ruby back in her hometown of Seattle and learns she's inherited Bluebird Books, the children's bookstore Ruby had founded in the 1940s, June takes her first vacation days in years and flies back home, intending to sell the assets and return to Manhattan as soon as she can. But as she sorts through old books, papers, and memories at the store, then meets Gavin, owner of the Italian restaurant next door, she starts wondering where her future really lies.
From the beginning, it's clear that the novel will deal with June's personal transformation as she slowly reconnects with everything she had left behind and decides, ultimately, that Ruby's beloved store is worth saving. Although I had a good feel for the outcome of that part of June's tale, I remained wrapped up in it, and there were many surprises in store, too. The novel's historical aspect derives from a literary scavenger hunt in which June discovers a series of letters dating from the '40s between Ruby and her good friend, Margaret Wise Brown, in which they share confidences and bounce ideas off one another. Both women have challenging relationships with their sisters (something June is also experiencing herself), and struggle with pursuing lives of their own choosing despite disapproval or disdain from others.
June's reminiscences about her former closeness with her estranged younger sister, Amy, took me on a nostalgic journey back to the toys and books of my childhood (did anyone else ever have an Easy-Bake Oven or play Old Maid?). And anyone who thinks that writing for children is a lesser or less worthy accomplishment than composing Highbrow Literature should read this novel for enlightenment. It drew me in continuously with one revelation after another, some predictable and some the opposite. By the end I was happily overwhelmed by her characters' unceasing efforts to do the right thing for themselves and for one another.
Sarah Jio's Goodnight June was published on May 27th by Plume in trade paperback ($16.00) and on Kindle ($7.99). Thanks to the author's publicist for dropping a NetGalley widget into my inbox.