Kitty Miller is living the dream. OK, so maybe her life isn’t picture-perfect according to society’s standards; it’s 1962, and she’s an unmarried woman. But after a failed long-term relationship, Kitty has come to accept that life isn’t always meant to be as we imagine. Instead of being married with kids, she and her best friend, Frieda, own a bookshop in Denver. They’re not rich—in fact, sometimes it’s hard to make ends meet—but the pair is so close they refer to one another as Sister. It’s a good life.
Or is Katharyn Anderson living the dream? Although Katharyn once ran a successful business with Frieda, she has traded the nickname Kitty for the more grown-up Katharyn, and ceded her independence for a suburban home, husband and children. It seems she has it all.
In The Bookseller, debut novelist Cynthia Swanson portrays one character in two distinctive lives. When she goes to sleep each night, Kitty leaves her world as a bookseller and slides almost seamlessly into her dream life as Katharyn, aka Mrs. Anderson. But the more time Kitty spends in this other life, the clearer its imperfections become. Although she has the love of her life and a beautiful family, she has lost a lot along the way.
“Living,” Swanson writes, “is not made up of details, but rather of highlights.” In The Bookseller, she combines the two to answer the question we so often ask ourselves: What if?