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'Goodnight June' by Sarah Jio: Jio's best book yet -- not to be missed

Beautiful book
courtesy of Plume Books

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio


Sarah Jio has managed to write an almost perfect story. Almost. Because what makes a perfect story, anyway? "Goodnight June" is beautiful and thoughtful and touching (it will make you cry) and it will make you remember reading "Goodnight Moon" either to yourself or to a child.

"Goodnight June" will make readers reach out to family members, tell someone she or he is loved, and perhaps inspire a visit to a local bookstore to sit and read for a while and breathe in the aroma of new books. Books waiting to be read, worlds waiting to be visited, adventures waiting to be had.

It's a story about love, family, friendship, and books. June Andersen is a banker whose job is delivering the bad news when small businesses go under through foreclosure. She works for a bank, and she thinks she has everything. She does have an important job that pays well, and she has a lovely condo in a great location, but she doesn't have many friends, and her family is across the country in Seattle while she lives in New York.

When her beloved aunt dies, June is caught off-guard. She hasn't visited her aunt in years, and she feels terrible about it. She feels worse when she learns that her aunt left her the bookstore, Bluebird Books, that her aunt owned.

June's plan is to go to Seattle and get her aunt's things in order and sell the store. But that wouldn't be a novel -- so instead, June must learn about what is important in life (hint: it's not foreclosures), and she must decide if she wants to forgive her sister for some (untold) horrible event that caused them to not speak. And the reader knows it must have been horrible because June and her sister were thisclose. It's about family and it's also about friendship.

During the course of the book, June learns a lot about her aunt and her aunt's best friend, Margaret Wise Brown, the author of "Goodnight Moon." She learns that what is maybe the most famous children's book ever written was inspired by her aunt's bookstore and by her aunt.

June is a lovely protagonist -- she's driven, conflicted, angry and guilty. Readers will love her and feel her pain and her doubt. It's the kind of story that's really difficult to put down, not because of the twists and turns, but rather because the characters are so likable that the reader can't stand not knowing how it all ends.

And the ending? Let me just say, have lots of tissue handy. The tears are half happiness and half sorrow, but one emotion that is practically guaranteed is the sense of loss. Every book must have an ending, but no reader will want to leave Bluebird Books for the last time.

It is obvious that this book "spoke" to me. I was the kind of mother who took my children to a bookstore for the day during the summer. We'd read all morning, take a lunch break, come back and read more. Have hot chocolate in the afternoon. Read a bit more, buy a few books, and then head home. I love bookstores and even worked at one a few hours a week just so I could talk to kids about great kids' books. Yes, I want my own Bluebird Books. What do you think, Sarah Jio? Should we start a chain of them?

Why 5 stars? That should be pretty obvious. It's about books and a bookstore! It's beautiful! I won't be able to start another book until tomorrow because I need to continue to process this one.

Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, Plume, for review purposes.

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