I picked up Bill Petrocelli’s Through the Bookstore Window in the midst of reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.  I wasn’t looking for a break, but I had already gone more than 500 pages into what is a book of nearly 900 pages, so maybe I was wanting a small respite.  In any case, I picked up Through the Bookstore Window, and the opening chapter was enough to entice me into reading the whole book.

I’m not sure if it’s fair to any author to try to read the author’s work while also reading Dickens.  So, when Petrocelli’s book dragged a bit — well, a lot — in the first half, I figured it might not be his fault.

In the end, it was a workmanlike book that, for me, collapsed under the weight of too many social issues, trends and controversies that were crammed into its 278 pages.  To wit, in no particular order:

  • Incest

  • The Bosnian War

  • A kidnapping

  • A back-alley abortionist

  • Two near suicides

  • A workplace shooting

  • A drive-by shooting

  • A sniper shooting

  • A rape

  • The Vietnam War

  • Sex trafficking

  • A gay female couple

  • A gay male couple

  • A pregnant teen

  • A transgender character

  • Fundamentalist Christianity

  • The Iraq War

I understand that it’s hard to sell novels now and that it helps to have a hook to such issues, trends and controversies, but, let me tell you, Through the Bookstore Window has way too many portentous and dramatic hooks.

And these clash with one other hook that is central to the story — the cozy confines of a bookstore.  The central character of the novel runs a bookstore.  Important characters are described as liking books.  It seems that Petrocelli wants this novel to, in some way, be an ode to the pleasure of books.

This, though, is a book that didn’t give me much pleasure.


Patrick T. Reardon


Written by : Patrick T. Reardon

For more than three decades Patrick T. Reardon was an urban affairs writer, a feature writer, a columnist, and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. In 2000 he was one of a team of 50 staff members who won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Now a freelance writer and poet, he has contributed chapters to several books and is the author of Faith Stripped to Its Essence. His website is https://patricktreardon.com/.

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