The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disclaimer: As a member of Penguin's First To Read Program, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.
Part 1: From The Book Cover
Tom Hope doesn’t think he’s much of a farmer, but he’s doing his best. He can’t have been much of a husband to Trudy, either, judging by her sudden departure. It’s only when she returns, pregnant to someone else, that he discovers his surprising talent as a father. So when Trudy finds Jesus and takes little Peter away with her to join the holy rollers, Tom’s heart breaks all over again.
Enter Hannah Babel, quixotic small town bookseller: the second Jew—and the most vivid person—Tom has ever met. He dares to believe they could make each other happy.
But it is 1968: twenty-four years since Hannah and her own little boy arrived at Auschwitz. Tom Hope is taking on a battle with heartbreak he can barely even begin to imagine.
Robert Hillman has written a number of books including his 2004 memoir The Boy in the Green Suit, which won the National Biography Award, and Joyful, published by Text in 2014. He lives in Melbourne.
Part 2: Recommendation
I requested this book mainly because of the word Bookshop in the title and because of the compelling description but this was not at all what I thought it would be. Yes, there is a bookshop but it was mostly mentioned in passing which was disappointing for me because I was hoping that the story would highlight the bookshop as a place where broken hearted people found healing. Such was not the case.
Instead we have all these broken, very sad people linked to each other through Tom Hope, a farmer in a small town in rural Australia. I liked Tom as he's a very reliable, hard-working man with a big heart. While other reviewers of this book look at Tom as being a weak man for having the ability to forgive and take back the women who walked out on him and for having the ability to truly love a child not his own, I find him to be full of strength and virtue. Tom’s character reminds me of how God loves us. No matter how bad we are in this earthly life, God forgives us and takes us back every time we walk away from Him and come back to Him by being repentant.
As for the other characters in this book, it was really hard for me to relate to each of them. But one thing is clear, we are all broken in one way or another and the path to healing is to be with Tom. The same in true with God. He is the only one who can heal our brokenness.
The plot of this book is a bit jarring in the sense that whenever I get settled in the present, the next chapter would be Hannah’s past and then when you get settled in that time frame, you get thrown back into the present time. It makes me wonder if the reading experience would be drastically altered if the reader reads all the Australia chapters first up to the first encounter between Tom & Hannah then read all the flashback chapters then go back to where Tom & Hannah left off. I'm not going to read it again at this point. I have other books to read. I’ll leave it up to future readers to read it in the way I suggested above and see if it makes for a better sense of continuity that way.
This is a hard book to recommend despite the beautiful, well-written words because I had such a beast of a time staying motivated to read through it. It's a very sad book. So, if you are one who enjoys reading historical fiction, maybe you’ll like this but if you're picking this up because of the bookshop factor, forget it. This is not at all about the bookshop.
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