The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
I love books that can totally transport you to a different time and frankly, just enchant your socks off. My friend Scott and I were chatting the other day about what makes a movie really good, and we agreed that the best ones -- like "The Sandlot," "Hook," and "Field of Dreams" -- are those that make you feel nostalgic for a time or place you've never lived in. And I think books are the same way.
I love the background on this book, too. Mary Ann Shaffer worked in a library, and she always felt she just had a book in her (like a lot of us do, I think). She had been working on this story about the Channel Islands, but had never finished it. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she asked her niece, the children's author Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book. Mrs. Shaffer died just a few months before the book was published in 2008, but she left behind such a delightful legacy.
The story is told entirely in letters, all centering around Juliet Ashton, an author living in London in 1946. World War II has just ended, and Europe, like the rest of the world, is still recovering. Juliet receives a letter from a man on the British Channel Island of Guernsey, informing her that he had come into possession of a book she used to own. She had written her address inside the cover, and he wanted to know if she knew where he could purchase some more writings from the author because he had enjoyed the book so much. Juliet responds and learns that the man is part of a book club -- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet begins to correspond with the other members of the society, and before long, she realizes that she has to go and meet them in person.
The story is by turns funny, sad, and touching. It's rare that I tear up while I'm reading, but I have to say, I found myself wiping my eyes as I neared the end - somewhat because a few passages were truly heartbreaking, but mainly because it was just so perfectly sweet.
My only regret is that Mrs. Shaffer passed away before she could write a sequel. It's a wonderful, wonderful book.