Shop Thoughts: Books, Take Me Away!


After two and a half years, COVID finally came for me.  

I know I’m not alone.  It’s everywhere this spring.  One of the worst things about COVID is the uncertainty, of not knowing how bad it might get — or how long it might go on for.  There’s a level of anxiety that doesn’t usually accompany seasonal flu or the common cold.  (Thankfully everything has gone pretty okay for me on those fronts.)  But the best part of COVID, especially for an introverted book nerd, is five days stuck in a room with not a whole lot to do except read.

The first day I cleared off my bedside table to make room for the Tylenol and tissues and the mask to put on every time my husband made a food delivery.  Then I stacked up the books in my queue and started making my way through the pile.  What I discovered pretty quickly was that I wanted to read books that transported me.  I started with an excellent murder mystery set in wintry Minneapolis, “Gone to Dust” by Matt Goldman, and, after having trouble sleeping that first night, finished it around 2 a.m.  (You might have heard or experienced that COVID comes with fatigue — my fatigue did not hit until week two.)  It features an ex-policeman-turned-private-eye who is likable for being damaged but not too damaged, smarter than the average bear, and who moves the story along at a nice clip.

Next, I read a slim novel called “Grown Ups” by Marie Aubert, translated by Rosie Hedger, set on a lake in Norway, about a middle-aged woman and her relationship with her younger sister.  It’s a caustic book that I read with voyeuristic delight: This is not a family I would want to be a part of, but the sisters’ competitiveness and their mother’s clueless encouragement of it sure was fun to read about.

From there I moved from lake life to beach life and a book I’ve been looking forward to for many months: “Vacationland” by Meg Mitchell Moore.  From the first pages I knew I was in the hands of a pro (this is Moore’s seventh novel).  She captures perfectly the Maine coast, living in a tourist town at the height of summer, and the love of visiting a big, old, rambling, seasonal family home full of memories.  Moore’s specialty is family secrets and “Vacationland” has them in spades.  They are doled out liberally, so that I always felt I was learning something about the characters, but Moore also holds enough back for big revelations at the end to feel satisfying.  The novel centers on two women of very different means who work their way into each other’s orbs as the story unfolds.  They each question how to be a good daughter, a good parent, and a good partner.  Don’t we all?

Sound interesting?  This Sunday, June 12, at 1 p.m., I’ll be chatting with Meg Mitchell Moore about “Vacationland” in the last of our Taproom Series events of the season, held at Channel Marker Brewing, 95 Rantoul Street, in Beverly.  We’ll have the new book for sale ahead of its publication date on June 14 and Meg will of course sign copies after our discussion.  

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a return to good health and the warm, sunny days of summer. 

Hannah Harlow is owner of The Book Shop, an independent bookstore in Beverly Farms.  Harlow writes biweekly recommendations for us.  See more of what she recommends reading at

hannah harlow, covid, books