Michelle Herbert reviews Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan…
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore starts unsurprisingly, with the store closing at midnight. We meet the main character, Lydia, almost immediately as she checks to see if a regular (Joey) is still in the store or not. Unfortunately, when she finds Joey, he has committed suicide and this book shows how Lydia is affected by his death. Right from the first chapter you are drawn into Lydia’s life and want to know more about her and the people who inhabit the book store.
Joey leaves Lydia the last of his belongings and as Lydia sifts between the fragments of Joey’s life she has to come to terms with how both their lives are intertwined. There are moments in this story that can only be described as creepy, where you are never sure what is going to happen next, and you wait with bated breath with Lydia as she discovers more about her own past, as well as Joey’s.
Lydia is someone who has spent her whole life slowly trying to rebuild a semblance of safety after a traumatic incident in her childhood. I will not mention what happened to her here, as part of the charm of the novel is the slow build up to this event and how her life was changed immeasurably, this led to Lydia not only changing her name but also making her run away when her past has been revealed. Lydia does not want to think about what happened to her, and it isn’t until Joey’s death that she is confronted by the past she had left behind as she sets out to find the answers to Joey’s suicide.
For all of Lydia’s emotional walls, she is a likeable character who has overcome a series of hardships to become the woman who now works at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. Lydia still has a lot of trust issues, that are revealed slowly over the course of the book. Lydia also discovers an inner strength as she delves into the heart of the ambiguity that was Joey’s life.
Initially, I picked up this book as I liked the title, I wasn’t sure what to expect, would it be a book about the people who worked at a book store, or alternatively a story about what happens at the book store after midnight. Instead, I got to read a story with a mystery that had profoundly affected Lydia’s life in and yet the story was so much larger than just one life. This is a book about secrets and the fragile safety nets we build around ourselves. Whether that is obscuring the past from our loved ones or inventing new histories so that we can disconnect from the events we have no control over. I really enjoyed reading this book and the intricate story within.