A Scottish Bookshop Novel
Ever since reading The Bookshop On the Corner, I’ve been meaning to read more of Jenny Colgan’s books. When I finally started to get back into reading fiction during self-isolation this year, I grabbed my advance copy for her latest book, 500 Miles From You, and was even more excited to discover she returns to Kirrinfief in this one!
From the Publisher Marketing:
Lissa, is a nurse in a gritty, hectic London neighborhood. Always terribly competent and good at keeping it all together, she’s been suffering quietly with PTSD after helping to save the victim of a shocking crime. Her supervisor quietly arranges for Lissa to spend a few months doing a much less demanding job in the little town of Kirrinfeif in the Scottish Highlands, hoping that the change of scenery will help her heal. Lissa will be swapping places with Cormack, an Army veteran who’s Kirrinfeif’s easygoing nurse/paramedic/all-purpose medical man. Lissa’s never experienced small-town life, and Cormack’s never spent more than a day in a big city, but it seems like a swap that would do them both some good.
In London, the gentle Cormack is a fish out of the water; in Kirrinfief, the dynamic Lissa finds it hard to adjust to the quiet. But these two strangers are now in constant contact, taking over each other’s patients, endlessly emailing about anything and everything. Lissa and Cormack discover a new depth of feeling…for their profession and for each other.
But what will happen when Lissa and Cormack finally meet…?
At this point I probably own at least half a dozen Jenny Colgan books and am ashamed to admit that this is only the second one I’ve read. A few weeks ago I did a feature blog post for the bookstore blog (check it out HERE) for the three books of the Scottish Bookshop series (this is the third, The Bookshop on the Corner is the first), and I hadn’t yet read the second one, The Bookshop on the Shore, thought I’m almost finished it now. I felt like a bit of a fraud, but on the strength of my love for the first in the series alone, I’ve managed to talk quite a few people at the store into reading her, and they keep coming back for more of her books, which is amazing!
So when I was trying to figure out what books to choose for our annual summer staff recommendations list (post on those titles HERE), I knew I wanted to include a Jenny Colgan title, but I couldn’t just keep featuring The Bookshop on the Corner over and over again. I took a look at which ones I had on my shelf as advance copies (our rep for her publisher has sent me everyone for the past few years) and I figured what better book to feature than this one, where Jenny returns to the setting of The Bookshop on the Corner, the charming village of Kirrinfeif in the Scottish Highlands.
While the first Bookshop book is mostly lighthearted and doesn’t involve many emotional gut punches (we always pitch it as a tear-free read), 500 Miles from You has a much more serious starting point and features Lissa’s struggle in coping with PTSD after witnessing an acquaintance die as a result of a car accident right in front of her. As someone who dealt with car accident related PTSD a few years ago, I thought Jenny did a tremendous job of portraying Lissa’s thought process and coping mechanisms for handling it all.
At it’s heart, 500 Miles From You is a feel good novel, like many of Jenny’s other books. Lissa struggles to fit in in Kirrinfief – the way Jenny describes it you’ll quickly learn that just because London and the Scottish Highlands are both part of the UK, it’s similar to the cultural differences between New York City and the rural midwest here in the states. When Lissa and Cormac switch places, both are in for a great deal of culture shock.
My favorite aspect of 500 Miles From You is how Jenny seamlessly wove two mildly related stories together in an expert fashion, pulling together a narrative that grew and evolved along with her characters. I keep always coming back to her because she writes people so well – they’re always very relatable, full of faults and foibles, and there are no real villains, no antagonists in the traditional sense – it’s all about the growth and evolution of her characters that drive the story forward and I love her for that.
While the Bookshop series does not necessarily need to be read in order (my own reading order is 1, 3, 2), I would recommend reading The Bookshop on the Corner first as Nina, the protagonist of that one, is in both of the subsequent books and there are some minor spoilers for her story in the second and third books.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.