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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Scribner, 336 pages, $26

Although “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” starts off forced and a little bumpy, the tone soon smoothes out and the story moves along. Especially noteworthy is the story of Lydia as a young girl and the trauma that becomes her “defining moment.”

Lydia is the star of this book, mostly as a young woman, a bookseller who cares about the books and the people who buy books. She even finds a space in her heart for the “BookFrogs,” a set of lost, sometimes perplexed, uniformly odd men who haunt the bookstore in lieu of a wider experience in the outside world. When one young BookFrog commits suicide in the bookstore, it is to Lydia that he leaves his worldly belongings. That consists mostly of books with holes cut in them, sometimes lots of holes. Thus the mysteries are set: What happened to Lydia when she was young and what sort of message, if any, was the young BookFrog sending to Lydia?

The story is a little heavy on coincidence, but there’s a definite charm to it. Lydia, her friend Raj, and Lydia’s father have interesting parts and quirks. As a matter of fact, every character, minor or major, has quirks. And, of course, in a setting close to my heart, Lydia does work in a bookstore. (And that is where the dead body is discovered.) 

I wish for Raj and Lydia, who spend the book looking for their true stories, what the anonymous delivery man (brief, quirky appearance) said when delivering life-changing papers, “May your news bring peace.”

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