The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Monsieur Perdu runs a bookshop from a barge boat on a river in Paris, his specialty being that he listens to people's problems and "prescribes" them just the book they need. He lost the love of his life 20 years ago when she left him, and has used his bookshop as a way of hiding from his own pain by helping others navigate theirs. He lives in an apartment building full of characters, and when a new single woman moves in with nothing to her name, he is asked if he has a table to spare. He gives her his dining room table, thinking that he doesn't use it all that much anyway, and in the drawer in the table the new neighbor finds an old unopened letter addressed to M. Perdu. What he reads in the letter reaches into his past and reveals that his breakup years ago wasn't all he supposed it to be.
Harboring romantic feelings for his new neighbor, Perdu sets his boat adrift for the first time in many years, navigating toward his former's love's home, determined to tie up loose ends, answer questions, and heal his heart before he gives it to his new neighbor. Just as he pushes off, one of his neighbors, a young troubled American author, jumps aboard, and they journey together. As their journey progresses they meet and interact with a small group of people who each come into Perdu's life just when he needs them to help him heal, much like Perdu has helped others over the years. In the end, Perdu's questions are answered and his soul knows peace. The journey was long and arduous, but worth every step.
At first this book was very slow. I put it down a few times, having not made much progress, thinking that I might not finish it, but then the "book due soon" email came from my library, and I decided to power through it before it was due back. I'm glad I did! About a third of the way in, the story picks up, and I finally felt invested in the outcome, yearning for Perdu to find peace so he could love again. The characters that came to help him along the way were delightful and charming, and so crucial to the story and Perdu's recovery. By the end, I loved it. Although not fast paced at all, this book is touching and heartfelt and a great read.