Reviewed by Laura
This book is by the author of the popular novel, Things You Save in a Fire, and is one of my new favorite books. As I’ve said before, some titles just beg to be added to my personal collection and this is definitely one of them. I was intrigued from the first moment I opened the book. I had chosen it for less than stellar reasons; it had flowers on the cover and it was blue. Weird reasons to pick up a book, but they were both spots that I could use on my Book Bingo card!
The story centers around an elementary school librarian, which also grabbed my attention since I’m a retired elementary teacher who now works in a library. The perfect choice for me, right? And oh, it really was! This book has heart and joy in the midst of pain, overcoming obstacles, redefining yourself, miracles and wonder. My kind of book, especially in a world that isn’t very heartwarming for any of us at the moment.
Samantha (Sam) Casey used to be a drab wallflower who never spoke up for herself or fought for anything. At her old school, she fell madly in love with another teacher, a special man always ready with a laugh or absurd suggestion. His riotous clothes were a direct contrast to her buttoned down appearance. But she never had the courage or confidence to reach out to him. When it looked like he was becoming serious about a colleague, she decided to quit her job and move away rather than having to face them every day. She landed at a wonderful, creative, independent school run by Max and Babette Kempner, a husband and wife team who took her under their wing and allowed her to move into their carriage house. Under their tutelage, she thrived and became a believer in seeking joy in each day. Max’s motto was never miss a chance to celebrate and Sam began to ascribe to that theory. She now wears bright fun colors and has even colored her bangs pink! In short, she has blossomed and loves every minute of sharing her love of books with her students in a free and welcoming atmosphere. But then the unthinkable happens. At his 60th birthday party, Max collapses and dies. Their small closely knit community is heartbroken and floundering.
With trepidation, the teachers await the new principal, who is none other than her unrequited love, Duncan Carpenter. Only this Duncan is not the fun-loving teacher she remembers. This Duncan wears stiff, drab suits and never smiles. This Duncan is trying to suck the color, freedom, and joy right out of the school. What happened to the man she once loved? How could he have changed so desperately?
This story will make you laugh and cry as you root for both sides in spite of yourself. If ever a book was written for the popular phrase, Choose Joy (and yes, I DO have a t-shirt with that sentiment on it), this book is it. There is heartbreak and despair, but also joy and hope. I highly recommend this book and plan to read all the rest of the books Ms. Center has written. I don’t know about you, but I need uplifting right now. If you do, too, then this is the book for you!