Beth Reynolds has been a bookseller for 25-plus years, 21 of them at the Norwich Bookstore. She loves to write, knit, garden and bake. She has a fondness for fountain pens, typewriters and film cameras. Finding the perfect book for someone is a passion, and she's still chasing the high of RIF free book day from elementary school. If she's not here, you'll find her in other book-related spaces, like behind the desk at The Fairlee Public Library, or in her home with her husband and zoo-like menagerie.
It is a bookseller truth universally acknowledged that a review is more challenging to write when the book feels important, when it surpasses all adjectives. If I could, I would just become a sentry sitting next to the book so I could thrust it into your hands and tell you that the writing is just as gorgeous as the cover. And that there’s no need to read about the book, just open it up and let the words wash over you. Less analyzing and more feeling. Wren and Lewis are as real to me as the people I see everyday and the author magic that can make something like that happen is special. This debut pushes the limits of what a novel can be. It makes me happy to be a reader and grateful for the stories we get to inhabit either on land or by sea. How lucky we are to be alive right now when books like this are in the world. -Beth
In her debut, Shetterly explores the intricacies and intimacies of a marriage, intensified by the pandemic and the need to flee the city. Putting the couple under a microscope, the inner workings of a family and what we desire and yearn for most in this world comes blazing forth into focus. I found myself catching my breath as her descriptions of the world in 2020 felt so authentically real. And yet I felt so close to these characters, they might have been friends struggling with the issues that plague us all. The author’s insightful note at the end was the piece that put everything into place and has left me musing over the characters even still. A great read and a fabulous book club pick. It’s so true that the smallest part of ourselves is the most universal, and so much of this book resonates here in New England for all of us. -Beth
I would drop anything for a new work by Ann Patchett. Her latest novel takes place in Michigan focusing on a family trying to bring in their cherry crop. It’s 2020 and the girls have all come home. In true Scheherazade style their mother begins telling the story of her life, unspooling the moments of her time as a young actress. It’s the eponymous onion scenario, peeling back the layers of all of the selves that have since emerged before her daughters were born. She surprises them with scenes from a life they never knew existed, as they learn more about the actor from her past that has captured their imagination. But maybe the cherry metaphor is more apt here. It begs the question: What is truly at our core-- love or fear? This is a gift from a beloved storyteller; one worth reading, sharing, and savoring. -Beth
Sittenfeld's latest starts in 2018 with a fabulous look at the inner workings of a live television show (ala a fictional SNL). Her attention to detail was such a delight. I felt swept up in the energy of trying to create something so huge in such a short time. Then she jumps ahead to the pen-pal section and to tell you anymore would be to ruin the magic. This romantic comedy restored my faith and gave me a goofy smile that I wore for days. -Beth
This memoir, written in prosaic vignettes, shows us that the space between words, between stories, is as important as the writing. It’s as if you are a fly on the wall, sharing in the joy, the anger, the sorrow and confusion of betrayal, while at the same time witnessing ordinary moments that alchemize into beauty. It all comes back to the way we see things-- that’s the gift. Maggie Smith is a wonder. The words brought tears to my eyes, grateful that someone could be brave enough to put their most intimate work out into the world. This book is a comfort, a companion and an inspiration. Make some time for it. -Beth
This debut takes us inside the very deep experience of the WWII evacuation, but in a way that made me rethink everything I thought I knew. Beatrix has to leave her family in England to travel to the States, a decision which truly haunts her parents. But by trying to save her they created a rift and it’s one she’ll spend many years trying to reconcile. Is it possible to fuse your Before and After together or does the pivot point mean there is an un-mendable schism? We see Bea’s life from all sides through many eyes and the story will leave you feeling hopeful, for the impossible tasks we see in front of us can only truly be achieved by the living we do from day to day. The narrator for the audiobook is fabulous, but holding the book in your hand is truly a joy to be savored when immersing yourself in this tender novel. -Beth
Books about books and writers are my Kryptonite. McMullan Abramson’s debut brings to mind Michael Chabon’s sensibility and subject, with a unique style that is all her own. This story-in-a-story explores themes of families, loyalty, writer’s block and the all-encompassing desire to put something out in the world that wasn’t there before. For some of us these books are strong magnets, impossible to resist; this one doesn’t disappoint. It left me feeling hopeful, also inspired about the immersive powers of a novel, and what it can continue to spark once it's shared. -Beth
This cover. Oh this cover. Stops me dead in my tracks. Every. Single. Time.
And then I remember the feelings I had when reading this story. The experience was so intimate and immediate, contemplating how families are shaped over time--that love can be devotion to showing up or to sacrifice by choosing to stay at a distance. Art, basketball, and the intertwining lives of sisters, Napolitano has given us a gift of her words and a story peopled with characters that will stay with you. These little women will live large in your mind and heart. -Beth
You need this book. If I had to make comparisons I would say Wes Anderson filming Downton Abbey, with Kate Atkinson bestowing the blessings of a fairy godmother. But what I really want to say is that I love this debut with the heat of a thousand suns. The story swept me away, and I cared so deeply for the characters (The Veg has my heart.) To read it is to be equal parts delighted and beguiled, you will want to savor every sentence of this family saga.
While Tieghan’s blog is a delight, and her instagram pictures make me swoon every single time, having her cookbook on the shelf has proven itself somewhat essential. A perfect housewarming present or a little encouragement for a friend who finds themselves in the never ending chicken-for-dinner loop, again. Maybe you’ve sworn off cookbook buying, but there’s always room for one more. Especially one as beautiful and inspiring as this one. - Beth
Makkai’s latest novel is a spiral that starts from the outside and circles around till you get to the very tight, can’t-look-away center. We get to see present day Bodie in action juggling parenthood, marriage and work while giving us flashbacks to the incident at school that shaped her life. It takes skill and artistry to write the book that keeps us turning the pages into the wee hours, but more importantly to give us thoughts to ponder on privilege, power, race, sex and celebrity in the current world. LitHub calls it Secret History meets Serial and if that comparison doesn’t fill you with an immediate, intense need to read it-- then I don’t know what would. It’s all that-- and more! -Beth
Like a friend who sends you verses she wrote on napkins while busy with life, but needing to honor the words when they come, Maggie always has just what you need to inspire or to commiserate. She knows there is beauty all around and sometimes you have to dig a bit through the muck to uncover it. I saw some goldenrod at the beach and this book instantly sprang to mind. The poems inside it are like the items you carry in your first aid kit---always have them nearby just in case you need some words to get you through. Pick it up and read a few, guaranteed to start your heavy heart beating again. - Beth
Wilson once again gives us a musing on art. This time the question seems to be centered around who does art belong to? Once we release something into the world, do we have a right to say we own it? Following the spiral-like story of these two teens who come up with the brilliant idea to make a poster and secretly put copies all around town, I was drawn in and fascinated to see the braiding of the past and present storylines. Wilson is a true master and listening to his afterword on audio had me pondering more questions, but also thrilled that he keeps putting himself out there in these books. For me this hearkens back to The Family Fang, but honestly you should read them all. Art that pushes you to ponder is truly the best kind, and so essential in navigating today’s chaotic world. It always comes back to art. -Beth
This fantastic debut is filled with characters that feel real and true. The themes of hard work, perseverance and a respect for the natural world run through the chapters like the rivers and streams that feed into the ocean. It seems as if everyone in this novel is looking for something and as their lives intersect we see the impact of connection and family--- both genetic and chosen. I found the story to be utterly endearing, including Marcellus the octopus. Clearly the author poured her whole self into this book and offered us an escape from our lives while rooting for a happy ending for these characters. I promise it will delight and surprise you. -Beth