Kitty Miller is contented with her life as a thirty-something, single woman in 1962 Denver. She and her best friend Frieda are independent booksellers, she’s close to her parents – currently on an anniversary trip to Hawaii, and she hasn’t really thought much about her earlier hopes for a husband and family for a long time. Life is good. Then one night she goes to bed and the dreams start.
Kitty’s dream world is populated by Katharyn (Kitty when she looks in the mirror!) and Lars Andersson, a couple deeply in love with each other, their children, and their life in 1963 Denver. It’s as if Kitty has entered her what-might-have-been alternate universe! Night after night she finds herself drawn further into Katharyn’s world and begins to start functioning as Katharyn even as she is aware that it’s all a dream. But her interactions in this other world start affecting her life in the current one as both worlds demand more of Kitty/Katharyn as time passes. She feels the need to finally end these dream trips for the sake of her health and sanity but is no longer sure where she truly belongs and which is dream and which is reality.
The Bookseller is a debut novel and has some of the bumps often associated with such. Some characters are not well-drawn or consistent in their actions; the story doesn’t always flow well and certain segments strain credulity. That being said, I was pulled in enough to want to find out how Kitty’s story is resolved and am glad I stayed with it. The premise was intriguing and I believe Swanson’s writing shows potential. While this could have been a true psychological drama, as an engaging beach read it still makes the cut.