After reading The Unhoneymooners, I knew I wanted another laugh when I’d go to Arkansas for a mountain and lake respite. Per usual, I packed entirely too many clothes I could possibly wear while hiking and social distancing and, of course, too many books I could possibly read in one week. I was sure to check out The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman for some humor, but I thought I’d finish it quickly and would need more reading materials.
I went overboard. Beside downloading an Agatha Christie short story and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in audiobook format for the drive, I stowed away an entire bag of other books from the library: three Wonder Woman comics, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty and two biographies for Grant (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Frederick Douglass biography by David W. Blight and the humorous George Washington biography You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe). I also threw in a historical fiction novel I received for Christmas that I have yet to get around to, and upon further inspection, I realized Grant snuck in Casino Royale and Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew.
Needless to say, between our outdoor adventures in the Natural State, we hardly made a dent in our TBR stack.
In the hot afternoons, I settled in with The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. This family dramedy was the perfect light read and escape from other people and life back home!
I believe Nina Hill would be one of the few of us who actually enjoy social distancing. She works at a small bookstore and loves to spend her free time doing nothing else but reading books alone, sitting by her cat Phil. She occasionally forces herself to socialize by competing with her trivia team in local watering holes, but is now and then overwhelmed with anxiety.
Her secluded life comes to an abrupt halt when she is contacted by her unknown dead father’s attorney. He informs Nina she is listed in the multi-millionaire’s will.
Now Nina is not only forced to have awkward conversations with her new siblings (ranging in age from 10 to 59), but she also must save the bookstore that’s six months behind on rent and pursue a romantic relationship with the dreamy guy on the rival trivia team!
The shining moments of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill are those in which the author allows our title character to explore her emotions. Nina and a few of her new-found family members suffer from anxiety. Abbi Waxman perfectly explains what anxiety feels like and how it affects our title character’s life. Waxman doesn’t sugarcoat or romanticize the mental illness, like many authors are prone to do. She also doesn’t let the disorder define Nina. As someone who battles anxiety, I related to Nina the most in these moments. I love that Nina is a well-rounded character with many attributes, one of which is anxiety disorder. Anxiety doesn’t define Nina, but it does affect certain situations she finds herself in.
Nina explores new emotions when building relationships and discovering similarities between her new siblings. The loveliest scenes are between Nina and her youngest sister Millie. Nina hesitantly, but gladly, accepts her role as big sister and mentors the little girl Nina sees so much of herself in.
A fun read, the only times I found myself mildly bored was with the romantic storyline between Nina and Tom, the rival trivia team’s sports wiz. At times, their relationship lacked chemistry and I found the overall storyline to be forced.
Nevertheless, the book is charming and at times funny and sentimental. The family drama, Nina’s awkward, bookish quirks and the way Waxman delivers anxiety are worth the read. If you’re like Nina and don’t exactly want to be around other people right now, definitely check this one out at your local library or purchase it from your local bookstore or order it on Amazon here.
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Danielle Kelley Tolbird
Surrounded by books by day, Tolbird works as the communications coordinator of her local library. She writes about her favorite books, faith in God and daily life.