Through the Bookstore Window is a bold exploration of lives joined by history. The story features Gina Perini, an exile in San Francisco, whose life as a bookstore manager covers a troubling past in Bosnia, and Alexi Wilder, an abused teenager trapped in Indiana. When Gina responds to Alexi’s need, a serpentine thriller unfolds as both women run from their demons.
Through alternating points of view and across state lines, Petrocelli weaves powerful themes on remaking a life and courage. Between the story of Gina and Alexi’s pursuers and the women’s journey toward safety, another story—of a Vietnam veteran and lonely investigator—gathers force. It’s here, in the account of Davey Fallon, that multiple strands converge, sparking a dangerous finale.
Gina’s first-person chapters stand out for her voice. At turns pensive, resilient, forceful, and uneasy, she’s a fascinating portrait of second chances. A victim of war’s brutality and an unwilling aggressor, a community figure and a private person who’d rather lose herself to the world of books, she’s one of the more sharply defined characters in the novel. The depth of her role in Alexi’s life adds crucial notes of love and atonement in an otherwise brooding landscape. Davey also deserves mention as a man who immerses himself in the search for Alexi only to find that he must confront his own self-destructive nature.
On occasion, the work broadcasts emotional controversies, as with a character’s impassioned remarks on gun violence, and a Midwestern sermon that speaks against same-sex unions and abortion. At other times, dark issues—such as collusion between a church and its neighboring foundation—are woven deeply into the plot, but threaten to eclipse Gina’s journey.
Through the Bookstore Window is an unusual, rewarding take on the nature of memory: how it haunts and heals, how single moments set the future in motion, and how it binds survivors together in ways they seldom expect.
Reviewed by Karen Rigby