Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: August 31st, 2021
Synopsis: June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.
Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.
Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.
To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too. (Goodreads)
You see, libraries aren’t just about books. They’re places where an eight-year-old boy can have his eyes opened to the wonders of the world, and where a lonely eighty-year-old woman can come for some vital human contact. Where a teenager can come for some precious quiet space to do her homework, and a recently arrived immigrant can find a new community. Libraries are places where everyone, rich or poor, wherever they come from in the world, can feel safe. Where they can access information that will empower them.
I was drawn to The Last Chance Library for obvious reasons, but little did I suspect how taken I’d be by the story and its delightful cast of eccentric and quirky characters! I completely connected with June and her desire to help people, which was at odds with her shyness, insecurity, and crippling fear of public speaking in any form. It was a joy to watch her slowly climb out of her shell and come into her own. The rest of the cast are wonderfully drawn, and I had a sense of deja vu from my working with similar library patrons during my twenty-six year career as a children’s librarian. Seeing these colorful personalities and learning their backstories is a lesson in not judging people based on first appearances.
The battle for this small village library is representative of the ill-formed decisions to close so many libraries in England over the last several years. So many people just don’t realize the important and necessary functions of libraries in their communities. While free and easy access to books are of course an integral part of it, as the above quote says, they’re a safe place for everyone who walks through their doors. Not to be dramatic, but you close a town’s library and you cut the heart right out of it. Freya Sampson does a marvelous job illuminating why it’s so important that these sanctuaries remain open, and she does this with laugh-out-loud humor as well as tear-inducing heartbreak. The ending, while happy for the most part, doesn’t take the easy way out either, which I quite appreciated.
The Last Chance Library is a charming love letter to libraries, their patrons, and bibliophiles everywhere. It truly is a must read that will make you laugh and cry, and remind you that:
It’s never too late to find your voice.