Book Review: Goodnight June
By: Sarah Jio
Published By: Plume
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Page Count: 320
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Adult - Fiction, Historical Fiction
Sarah Jio’s writing never ceases to suck me in from the first page. I adore the characters she creates and the way she blends together the past and present. The historical leanings of her writing is what originally drew me to her work, but now I find that I love the contemporary aspects just as much as the historical pieces. She is certainly one of my favorite authors and I always look forward to reading her next novel.
Goodnight June was a bit different than the previous Jio novels. The historical elements happened via letters. I thought this was a perfect way to learn more about the friendship between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon. Goodnight Moon is one of those stories that has captivated numerous children over the decades since it was written. I loved learning more about Margaret Wise Brown through this fictitious lens. I have to say that I rarely stop to think about the lives of authors, but after reading this one, maybe I should do that more often. I also found it interesting to learn more about female roles during this time period. Both Ruby and Margaret defy the social rules. I love women who challenge archaic gender roles and forge their own path.
Another way that Goodnight June stands out from other Jio works is that I felt like this one was more focused on the contemporary characters. That isn’t a criticism; I enjoyed the novel immensely. I loved June from the opening and found that each new character enhanced the story.
One of my favorite parts of this novel was June’s quest to save Bluebird Books. I found myself daydreaming about owning my own bookstore in Seattle. June is courageous and tenacious in her quest to keep the store open; I have to admire her gumption. I also felt like the bookstore was a special place that I would love to visit. Seattle will always have a special place in my heart and I loved visualizing the characters in familiar locales. The concept of having special places is something I have thought of often. I find that June explains it better than I ever could when she remarks, “Everyone has a happy place, the scene that comes into view when you close your eyes and let your mind transport you to the dot on the globe where life is cozy, safe, warm. For me, that place is the bookstore, with its emerald green walls and the big picture windows that, at night, frame the stars twinkling above. The embers in the fireplace burn the color of a setting orange sun, and I’m wrapped in a quilt, seated in a big wingback chair reading a book” (Kindle Location 173). That sounds like heaven to me. I found the focus on literature in this novel was another element that made Goodnight June.
Lastly, I really enjoyed the commentary on ebooks vs. brick and mortar bookstores. I find that these two can co-exist for me, but many people would be staunchly on one side or the other.
Overall, Goodnight June was an addicting read that I had trouble putting down. Jio is one of those writers that never disappoint me. Her novels have the perfect balance of contemporary, historical fiction, and romance. I love living in her novels and I always try to read them slowly and savor the plot, but that never happens. I highly recommend anything written by Jio.
One Last Gripe: I figured out the big twist pretty early on.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the Seattle setting and the scavenger hunt for letters in the first editions
First Sentence: Everyone has a happy place, the scene that comes into view when you close your eyes and let your mind transport you to the dot on the globe where life is cozy, safe, warm.
Favorite Character: June
Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one.
The New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter imagines the inspiration for Goodnight Moon
Goodnight Moon is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the "great green room" might have come to be.
June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.