Little Paris Bookshop: The Power of Books

It has been awhile since I have had a book club selection post, in case you are new, From Left to Write does not have traditional book reviews. We read books and then we use the book as inspiration to write a post. We might take a theme from the book or even talk about a memory that the book pulled out for us. In any case, these are not your typical reviews, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu–a literary apothecary–finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago.. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. {I actually received my copy of this book from NetGalley over the summer, but because of B2’s birth it took me this long to read it, so it was great timing that this was the From Left to Write book club selection for September}

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While I struggled a bit with the length of the book, what I didn’t struggle with was the underlying message. Books have the power to pull us in and help us heal, they can help us through a dark spot or even a bright one and give us a new a fresh perspective.

I remember the first time a book helped me heal. When I was in 6th grade one of my very close friends passed away suddenly. He wasn’t sick, it wasn’t expected, it was incredibly hard on our entire grade, over 20 years later I can still remember how hard the wake was, how a classmate fainted at the funeral. Kids have a hard time dealing with the everyday stuff that goes along with being a pre-teen, adding a death into that mix was something that none of us was prepared for.

I was always a voracious reader, piles of books littered my room, but after the death of my friend I struggled with the happy books I usually read. After a visit to the library and book store I found the book “Say Goodnight, Gracie“. The book was very similar to what I was going through, it helped me process my feelings.

Eleven years later my best friend passed away, again in a tragic accident, he wasn’t sick, it wasn’t expected. He was one of the brightest people I had ever known. I don’t mean in a smart way, although he certainly was very smart. I mean bright in the fact that he always lit up the room he was in, he could make you laugh when you were in the most terrible mood. He even predicted that I would end up with Nick, long before we even started dating.


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Since I transferred to the college that we went too, I ended up taking 4 years to graduate, because a lot of my credits didn’t transfer. 95% of my close friends had graduated and moved an hour away to Boston. I felt pretty isolated, no one that was still in the city with me really or truly understood what I was going through. Again, I turned to books (and food – but that is a post for another day). The one book I read over and over again was “Say Goodnight, Gracie”. This time I related very strongly with the main character, and to this day I still miss Jack very much. I missed him at my wedding, and I wonder who his wife would be, if our kids would be best friends?

I’ve read books since his death that have struck a chord with me, and related to the friendship that we had. While books don’t take your pain away, the help you heal in a way that maybe wouldn’t happen otherwise. I will always be thankful for books that have helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life.

What books have helped you through a tough time?

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing: Holding On

I received a complimentary copy of “The Last Winter of Dani Lancing” through my relationship with From Left to Write. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is about a college student, Dani, who was murdered twenty years ago but her killer was never found. Now a promising new lead may change everything.

Thrust into an intense devastation that nearly destroys their marriage, Patty and Jim Lancing struggle to deal with their harrowing loss. Patty is fanatically obsessed with the cold case; consumed by every possible clue or suspect no matter how far-fetched, she goes to horrifying lengths to help clarify the past. Meanwhile, Jim has become a shell of his former self, broken down and haunted—sometimes literally—by his young daughter’s death. Dani’s childhood sweetheart, Tom, handles his own grief every day on the job—he’s become a detective intent on solving murders of other young women, and hopes to one day close Dani’s case himself.

Then everything changes when Tom finds a promising new lead. As lies and secrets are unearthed, the heartbreaking truth behind Dani’s murder is finally revealed.

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At first I found this book confusing, there were many voices telling the story; Jim, Patty, Tom and Dani. I think the confusing part was when Dani’s character was talked to as a ghost. It took me a few chapters to get the hang of it, but as soon as I did, I didn’t put the book down. I literally read the majority of the book in 3 days.

I used to be a huge fan of psychological thrillers, but that was before I had B. I think having a child makes these types of books hard to read because you can relate it to your life, and that is frightening.

However this book reminded me of a time in my life that I struggled with, and sometimes still struggle with. Seven years ago the world lost an amazing human being. One of my best friends tragically drowned while out cliff jumping with some friends. I remember everything about the day, but the days after were a blur. The year after had some of the highest moments in my life, but also some of the lowest.

The majority of my friends had graduated already and I was one of 3 of our group still in school. Nick had moved to Boston for a job, and I was feeling alone. I dwelled in the what-ifs and the pity parties. I pushed a lot of people away, relationships I wished I could have maintained are no longer even reachable.

I was angry and I hated everyone. Jack was loved by everyone, there is no question about that, but we were friends since the day we met, and I felt like all these people who sorta knew him were treading on my grief (silly, I know that now). He was silly — he loved practical jokes and especially loved pulling them on me, I guess that’s what happens when you are the only girl in a group of friends. He cared about our friendship, and about the relationships I had in my life, he was the brother I never had. We had a small circle that transferred to WPI at the same time and we hung out all the time. To this day, I only have a great relationship with one of them. I realized he was the glue that held us together. I was mad at him, he always did stupid things, like cliff diving, and I felt that he was being so selfish, leaving the world when I wasn’t ready for him to.

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L-R: Jack, Rob, Sean and I am in front.
The last time the four of us were together.

A year after his death a bunch of us made the trek to upstate New York, Jack’s love of outdoors was definitely inherited from his parents. As part of their process they got a piece of land and were planning on cutting the brush and trees down to make a trail, in his honor.

We made it to the trail a few days after most of his family, but we still wanted to help. One of the people who was still there brought us to where they had left out. One of our group stepped on a Ground Hornets (or is it wasps?) nest. They literally attacked me, my sister and another friend started flicking them off me but there were too many. I took off my shirt and ran through the woods towards the cabin we were staying in. I was covered in bumps and was in pain. Sadly, this was not the first time this happened so I knew what I had to do. As soon as everyone got out of the woods and was okay, a few of us took a drive to the nearest drug store. We stocked up on Benadryl and medicine for me. While we were in the store the power started flicking on and off and when we left it was down pouring. All I could do was laugh, typical Jack, I said. That’s when I knew I would be okay. I knew he would let me know that he is still looking out for me (and playing jokes) and that I can still count on him.

Whenever I go through a rough spot, I pray, but I also ask Jack for a sign. Maybe its stupid, but it helps me knowing that he is still a part of my life.

Everyone deals with death and grief differently, certain songs on the radio remind me of our countless road trips. Whenever I see an Eagle Summit, I think of him. I deal with realizing that people are in our life to teach us something, whether good or bad, and we don’t get to choose how long they are here for. It took me years to accept that last part. 

I will admit, it is hard that I can’t introduce him to B, or he can’t see the path Nick and I’s relationship has taken, or anything in the future that will be without him. I know that he is making people happy wherever he is.