Friday, September 6, 2019

Book Review - The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

Book Synopsis
Robin Windsor has spent much of her life under an assumed name to avoid association with her infamous parents. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary running her used bookstore in quiet River City, Michigan. But 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 summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. Why would Peter be making contact now? 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.

My Review
Robin Dickinson lives owns a small independent bookstore in a little town in Michigan.  She is private and reclusive and lives a quiet life.  Then one day, she starts receiving books in the mail.  The books have poems written inside the cover and they take her back to another time -- another name, and what seems like another life. 

I wanted to read The Words Between Us from the description.  I have a small online bookstore and have worked in local bookstores and love fiction set in the book world.  The Words Between Us is a delight for readers.  The protagonist, Robin, really loves books;  they literally change her life.  There is much discussion of classic books in this novel, and it is a delight to read.

The book flashes back between then (Robin's teen years, when she lived in a small trailer with her grandmother) and now (as a bookstore owner).  There are two overriding themes between the two time periods.  Robin's parents are in jail and her father is on death row.  The reasons are revealed over the course of the book, and there is a mystery - and element of danger - because of the mystery.  As a teenager Robin meets a boy named Peter who loves books;  this forges their connection.  He is still important to her life, although he is not around in the present day.  To say more would be to give spoilers, and I don't want to do that -- the slow unraveling of the mysteries in this book is a delight to read.

This is my first read by Erin Bartels and I am stunned by the beauty of her writing.  For instance:

"When I step out of Sarah's car onto the cracked blacktop parking lot, nostalgia and fear grumble in my stomach like the river in springtime.  The asphalt seems solid enough, but that's probably what the guy with the blue pickup had thought about the ice.  It's a warm morning.  Perhaps the present is only a thin crust that might break apart beneath my feet at any moment, allowing the river beneath to sweep me inescapably into the past.  If I walked to the football field right now, those boys might be there in dirty red practice jerseys, Peter among them.  He would look up and notice me as he did then, and we would start over and I would be fourteen again" (Kindle location 2361).

The Words Between Us is a beautiful and moving book.  It is sure to be on my list of favorite reads for 2019, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for other readers.

Author Bio
Erin Bartels is the author of We Hope for Better Things and The Words between Us. A publishing professional for seventeen years, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women's Fiction Writers Association. Her short story "This Elegant Ruin" was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. She grew up in the Bay City, Michigan, area and has spent much of her life waiting on drawbridges. She now lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at

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