Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
Pub. Date: May 27, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (thank you, Penguin!)
Summary: 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.
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
You know those books you hear about that sound AMAZING, those books you cannot wait to get your hands on and cherish, only to be horribly let down? Allow me to introduce you to Goodnight June. Let’s revisit that summary: June Andersen is the vice president of a very lucrative bank in New York where she oversees foreclosures, even personally shutting down beloved businesses. She’s carved out a new life for herself on the East Coast and never planned on returning to her past in Seattle until the day she received a letter; her great-aunt Ruby passed away and everything was left for June. Including Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby owned for decades. As much as June loved Ruby, returning home would mean facing things she’s just not ready for. When she uncovers a secret Ruby kept hidden – her friendship with Margaret Wise Brown and the true story of how Goodnight Moon came to be – June finds herself enchanted. Could she possibly learn to let go and move on?
Goodnight June sounded positively dreamy: a bookstore, an absolute classic work of children’s literature (raise your hand if you had – or still have! – a copy of Goodnight Moon), and a treasure hunt! Nothing better, right? Sadly, this novel fell victim to the Matthew Pearl Effect (new friends to the blog, the MPE is where a story has an incredible premise, but the actual storytelling falls short – named after one-too-many disappointments following Matthew Pearl’s works). Goodnight June sounded great, but the execution was anything but.
There were so many issues I had with this novel, it would be easier to discuss what I did like. The idea behind the story? Ruby and Margaret’s friendship? And that’s where my praise ends.
June, a painfully stubborn and immature woman, falls for a cute new guy and after two short weeks they’re in love. The problem? Gavin is co-owner of a restaurant with his ex-fiancee. The ex-fiancee who’s still in love with him. This doesn’t matter to June though, because mere days after meeting Gavin, she suggests they team up, knock down a wall between their buildings, and combine the two businesses into a bookstore/cafe. …and Gavin agrees. Uh.. Then there’s the problem with the bookstore. The entire reason June left for Seattle was to settle her aunt’s finances and sell the place. Ruby had amassed an overwhelming amount of debt and even if she were to sell her apartment and use her entire savings, June still wouldn’t have enough to cover the cost. So what brilliant plan does Gavin come up with? Why not e-mail her boss to ask for money! And June does. She e-mailed her boss JUST ONE DAY AFTER QUITTING to ask him to help her pay the money Ruby owed.
Honestly I’m surprised my eyes are still in my head they were doing so much rolling. Any obstacle or conflict that arose in the story was swiftly dealt with. There was nothing for June to work for. At one point she’s trying to locate a man who had been given up for adoption in the 70s. It was a closed adoption and she only had the name he was given at birth. Well what do you know, June does a Google search, comes across a website for adults who had been adopted, and types up a post on their message boards. The following day she receives a reply. The entire book was like this. June’s money problems? She holds a grand reopening (I was ROLLING at the scene where Bill and Melinda Gates randomly showed up along with big name authors like Clive Cussler) and gets a ton of donations. I get that this is supposed to be the Happy Ending, but I never saw it as a reward. June never had to struggle or put in any effort to reach her goals.
My other big issue was with the actual writing. If this is what Jio’s work is like after six books (with a seventh coming out later this year) I’d seriously hate to see what her debut was like:
We pretend to be angry at each other for about three seconds before we hug.
“I’m going to miss you,” he says.
“I’m going to miss you too.”
We sit at a corner table and talk and laugh over Americanos and blackberry scones, then continue our tour of Winslow, stopping at a wine store. Gavin buys a case of local cabernet for the restaurant, and an extra one for me. When I notice a bookstore, Eagle Harbor Books, across the street, we walk there next.
I study the letter carefully and see that Margaret must have heeded Ruby’s advice, because the letter has obviously been folded many times. Its creases are very deep and worn, as if she might have done just what Ruby suggessted. ‘I hope you’ll take what I’ve just written and put it in your pocket and save it.’ She must have done just that.
Of course, I should point out these are from an uncorrected copy. Her editor is definitely earning her paycheck with this one. Overly simple sentences – they went here, then they went here, then they looked at this – and an absurd amount of repetition (you think Margaret took the advice??). No thank you.
It’s such a shame that I truly have nothing good to say about Goodnight June but I certainly can see the appeal in Jio’s works; Goodnight Moon was an extremely easy, very quick read with an abundance of fluff. Unfortunately, I wanted more from this book than I received.
Sometimes I think of my life as a great big story. Each silly thing I do is a new paragraph. And each morning I turn to the next chapter. It’s fun to think of life that way, each day being an adventure of the grandest proportions.