Published by Berkley Books on August 31, 2021
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson is an absolute gem of a book. I’m a sucker for a book about books anyway, but throw in a charming smalltown setting, a group of feisty senior citizens determined to do whatever it takes to save their local library, and an introverted library assistant who really wants to find her voice and this book was just an all around wonderful experience for me.
The story follows June Jones, a timid but lovable library assistant who works at Chalcot Library. The library holds a special place in June’s heart, not just because she loves assisting fellow book lovers but also because for years, her mother also worked there. Since June’s mother passed away, working at the library has been a way for June to still feel close to her.
I loved watching June interact with the patrons, especially the children, who she did everything she could to help foster their love of reading, and the elderly, who she not only helped with book recommendations but also with any technology/internet needs they have. When the local council starts talking of closing the library as a way to save money and it appears that the head librarian, Marjorie, may be in on it and tells June she is forbidden from speaking out against the possible closure, June is determined to do whatever she has to do to save the library, in spite of Marjorie’s warning, thus sealing her place in my heart as the beloved underdog.
I also had tremendous sympathy for June because in some ways, it seems that she is so busy trying to preserve her mother’s memory that she has stopped living her own life. She still lives in her childhood home, hasn’t packed up any of her mother’s old belongings even though she died 10 years ago, and June has indefinitely put on hold her dreams of going to university to study writing. Helping to save the library really seems to be the spark she needs to finally move forward and start living again.
It’s not just June fighting to save the library though. The library’s elderly patrons spring into action, forming a Friends of the Library group to protest the closing. I adored the members of this group so much. They’re so much fun to read about – all scrappy, full of wit, and just so incredibly devoted to the library. Through their actions, it becomes clear that the library is so much more than just a building full of books. It’s a safe haven for the homeless, a place where teenagers who live in crowded homes can have a quiet place to study, a place where unlikely friendships are forged between a cranky old woman and an immigrant who is new to the area. In short, the library is the very heart of the community.
I don’t want to say anything else that may spoil the plot, but this really is such a special story. If you enjoy books about friendship, finding your voice and standing up for what you believe in, and of course books about books, be sure to check out The Last Chance Library!