Readers who have ever turned to a book to get out of a slump are going to love Ann Hood’s The Book That Matters Most. The story begins on a festive December night in downtown Providence where Ava, a middle-aged French professor, is feeling anything but festive after discovering her husband’s infidelity. Like a film reel, memories of her once perfect life keep running in her head and no number of martinis can push the stop button. Miles away in Paris, Ava’s daughter, Maggie, is going through a crisis of her own after a failed attempt at writing a novel. Both women are desperate for something to pull them out of their misery.
Ava meets her savior in the form of a book club headed by her librarian friend, Cate, where each member must choose the book that matters most to her for the club to read. Hesitant at first about fitting in and even making the grave mistake of Netflixing her first book, Ava soon finds the comfort she is looking for in the books and the club members.
With Maggie, on the other hand, Hood takes us on a roller coaster ride through drug addiction, poor choices in men and her desperation to write. She finds a lifeline in a tiny bookstore run by a mysterious and stoic American expat.
Getting lost and then being found would in itself make for a wonderful story, but Hood adds another layer of complexity, linking the parallel journeys of mother and daughter in an unexpected way. The Book That Matters Most is an engrossing tale that reminds us of the power of the written word to comfort the soul.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Behind the Book feature by Ann Hood on The Book That Matters Most.