Published by Revell on September 3, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense, Romance
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Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels.
When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book--a first edition Catcher in the Rye--is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again?
With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine.
Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. – David Foster Wallace
When the non-fiction of her life because too much to cope with, Robin Dickinson—in truth, Robin Windsor—retreated into the realm of story. She lives with cousin—in truth, her grandmother—because of all the events of the past she doesn’t want to talk about. Her father is a disgraced Senator now on death row. Her mother is doing a lengthy sentence for aiding and abetting. And now it’s just Robin, her grandmother, Professor the parrot…and her books.
The Words Between Us shifts between two storylines: now and then. In the then, Robin befriends a boy named Peter who shows his love for her by sharing his late mother’s library. The two form a bond over lost parents and found stories in a coming-of-age tale that’s beautifully simple and sweet.
In the now, Robin is grown, back in her adopted hometown, the struggling owner of a used book store. Money is dwindling and only a last-ditch creative effort can pull her out. In the midst of this, Peter returns. Or at least his stories do. One by one, they come in the mail, each one containing the poem she had written for him as payment all those years ago.
Weaving forward and backward, The Words Between Us stitches the storylines together in a sometimes neat, sometimes messy fashion all hurtling forward to an unexpectedly dramatic end. It’s a John Green-esque tale that, in my opinion, deserves just as much praise and attention. Erin Bartels drew me in with a unique premise and held me there with her strong storytelling and complex characters. The back-and-forth storylines kept the drama and mystery.
Bartels does more than just pay lip service to the classics of fiction and poetry. This novel immerses itself in it. Classic literature is the hardbacked spine of The Words Between Us, making the novel stand up straight and providing the glue that holds the stories together. They are the connection between then and now, literally serving as the words between.
The title is absolutely brilliant. In one phrase, you see both the strength and the failure of Robin and Peter’s relationship, as well as the tangible evidence of their connection. Their words bind them together. The books passed back and forth and discussed and explained give context to their relationship. And, ultimately it was misunderstood words that came between them and kept them apart. Between. It can bind together or tear apart. Such a beautifully complex word, and Bartels wields it with all the depth it demands.
In The Words Between Us, Erin Bartels has given her readers a novel to read slowly and contemplate. It shows a true love for literature that all book-lovers will enjoy and a deeply rich storyline that will keep you engaged until long after the final page is closed.