Bear Among the Books by T.J. Masters
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on September 2, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)
Ben Thompson has been a bit lonely since the loss of his partner, but he’s invested his passion into the library he manages. A lover of books, he enjoys being able to share them with his community. And he has a great team of staff to work with. When a new young man shows up at the library, piquing the interest of Ben’s shrewd assistant, Ben finds himself more than curious. What’s even more interesting is that the new patron spends hours in the library, but he never checks out a book.
Jason Barnes loves books. So he relishes his daily trips to the library, where he finds so many readily at this disposal. But there’s something that makes Jason a unique library patron–he can’t read. It’s not something he’s proud of, and he’s found many ways to cope so most people don’t even know. But when the head librarian shows him some kindness and manages to figure it out, Jason decides to let Ben give him some lessons. It’s just that literacy skill isn’t Jason’s only secret. And as the two become fast friends–and maybe more–Jason wonders if Ben can handle Jason’s past and who he’s become as a result.
The obvious issue this book throws out from the beginning is age. Ben is forty-eight; Jason is nineteen. But the author doesn’t dwell on it. It’s addressed–some people would definitely have an issue with that age gap–but it’s handled respectfully and with tact. And even if you might have an issue with that as a reader, I think you’d find that it’s not as big of a deal in this book as it may seem.
Where things get more challenging is Jason’s history of abuse and the issues of his illiteracy. It sounds like what Jason went through was pretty horrific, yet it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal in the end. And while I understand everyone works through their issues differently, it just seems odd to me that there’s not as much worry or discussion on Ben’s part as I would expect before they jump into any sort of a relationship. And while people can find many ways to hide that they can’t read, there are moments when I wonder how Jason would have made it as far as he did in school without anyone noticing. Unless they did and didn’t care. But the author doesn’t really give us that, so it’s hard to tell.
Slight issues aside, this is an interesting read. The supporting cast of characters is incredible. Daisy, the shrewd assistant, went from someone I didn’t like to one of my favorite characters by the end. And Alice, Jason’s grandmother, is a riot all her own. I suppose that helps balance out some of the heavy stuff Jason is going through.