The Book of Love: A Novel

The Book of Love: A Novel

by Kelly Link
The Book of Love: A Novel

The Book of Love: A Novel

by Kelly Link



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Notes From Your Bookseller

Everything you're hearing and reading about this novel is true: it's a deeply satisfying read that combines fantastical elements, varieties of love and a supernatural bargain, all set in a picturesque seaside town.

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • In the long-awaited first novel from short story virtuoso and Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link, three teenagers become pawns in a supernatural power struggle.

“A dreamlike, profoundly beautiful novel [that] pushes our understanding of what a fantasy novel can be.”—Amal El-Mohtar, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“Imagine a ring of David Mitchell and Stephen King books dancing around a fire until something new, brave, and wonderful rose up from the flames.”—Isaac Fitzgerald, Today (Spring Pick!)

The Book of Love showcases Kelly Link at the height of her powers, channeling potent magic and attuned to all varieties of love—from friendship to romance to abiding family ties—with her trademark compassion, wit, and literary derring-do. Readers will find joy (and a little terror) and an affirmation that love goes on, even when we cannot.

Late one night, Laura, Daniel, and Mo find themselves beneath the fluorescent lights of a high school classroom, almost a year after disappearing from their hometown, the small seaside community of Lovesend, Massachusetts, having long been presumed dead. Which, in fact, they are.

With them in the room is their previously unremarkable high school music teacher, who seems to know something about their disappearance—and what has brought them back again. Desperate to reclaim their lives, the three agree to the terms of the bargain their music teacher proposes. They will be given a series of magical tasks; while they undertake them, they may return to their families and friends, but they can tell no one where they’ve been. In the end, there will be winners and there will be losers.

But their resurrection has attracted the notice of other supernatural figures, all with their own agendas. As Laura, Daniel, and Mo grapple with the pieces of the lives they left behind, and Laura’s sister, Susannah, attempts to reconcile what she remembers with what she fears, these mysterious others begin to arrive, engulfing their community in danger and chaos, and it becomes imperative that the teens solve the mystery of their deaths to avert a looming disaster.

Welcome to Kelly Link’s incomparable Lovesend, where you’ll encounter love and loss, laughter and dread, magic and karaoke, and some really good pizza.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812996593
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/13/2024
Sold by: Random House
Format: eBook
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 8,874
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

About The Author
Kelly Link is the author of White Cat, Black Dog; Get in Trouble, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction; Magic for Beginners; Stranger Things Happen; and Pretty Monsters. Her short stories have been published in The Best American Short Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. She is a MacArthur “Genius” fellow and has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the co-founder of Small Beer Press and co-edits the occasional zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She is also the co-owner of Book Moon, an independent bookstore in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

The Book of Susannah

A girl wakes up in her sister’s bed. “Laura?” she says. No one answers.

Oh, she shouldn’t be here. The one who should be here isn’t.

The girl’s name is Susannah. She is too tall, lamentably tall, and she has bad dreams. Shouldn’t her dreams be comforting? Restorative? Shouldn’t she see the ones she longs with all her heart to see? But in dreams, too, they are inexplicably missing.

The sheets are half off the bed as if someone has been yanking them. It isn’t morning yet. It’s the middle of the night. Everything is in the wrong place, except it isn’t. Her mother, Ruth, isn’t home yet. All those NICU babies with their complicated medical needs, their rashy bottoms and feeding tubes, suffused in ultraviolet light, parents slumped in blistered Naugahyde recliners, nurses murmuring in corners about the bid to unionize, about husbands and television shows and their own children. Do they fall silent when Susannah’s mother comes close?

“I’m tired of this,” the girl says to the moon in the window, because no one else is there to talk to. “Not knowing. Being in the dark. Being alone in the dark. Don’t you ever get tired of it?”

The moon is full. Isn’t this proof of something? That things can disappear and then come back again? Eleven months since whatever happened happened, and Susannah knows Laura isn’t coming back. If she did come back, she’d say, What the hell are you doing in my bed, Susannah? Oh my God.

Susannah can almost hear her say it. She gets up and makes the bed the way Laura would, because Laura isn’t here to do the things that Laura ought to do. To keep Susannah from doing the things Susannah shouldn’t do. All of Laura’s stuffed animals are on the floor. The sky-blue owl and the pangolin in its gingham dress. Everyone loved Laura best. Everyone misses Laura. The threadbare dog with the sewn-up place where the button eye should be has a secret name. Laura would never tell Susannah what she called it. Its name was probably something stupid, though. No one ever keeps a good secret. And now no one knows except for the dog.

Susannah picks up Laura’s things and puts them down again. Laura isn’t here to tell her not to. So she conjures Laura up in her head. Don’t worry, Laura. It’s easy to put little things back where they belong. The little circles and marks in the dust on the shelves show where each right place is. If Susannah puts each of Laura’s things back exactly where it ought to be, then everything will go back to the way it should be.

The china shepherdess that was their grandmother’s. (Susannah has a silver ring. Missing all but one of its seed pearls.) Pictures of Laura and Susannah and their mother. Pictures of Laura and Susannah and Daniel on stage. Laura’s romance novels, alphabetically arranged. Her favorite writer was Caitlynn Hightower. The covers of the romance novels, meant to indicate that the attractive people on them will eventually have sex. Fall inextricably in love, which in these books neither lessens nor changes but instead hardens, trapping those who inhabit it as amber preserves the insect. Wistful symphonic music (“Lara’s Theme.” Céline Dion. That kind of thing.) will begin to swell appropriately while these attractive and imaginary people f***. Perhaps on a horse! Behind a tapestry. On a boat. On a hill. In the past. Hail fellow kismet. Everything in the right place. Very knock-knock joke. Knock knock. Who’s there? Does it matter? You’re a person with (a pirate ship) (a dreadful secret) (a good fortune) and I’m a person with (a fortress) (a walled garden) (a stone) for a heart so let’s have sex. Let’s fall in love. Sure. Why not.

There are so many novels about falling in love and so few about finding a really good and rewarding job. Not that Susannah has read a book in a long time. Books are for kids who go to college. Her mother keeps leaving community college brochures on the kitchen counter. Susannah keeps throwing them away.

Little lines of dust where the spines meet the shelf.

Things that Laura liked: Romance novels. Milk Duds. Susannah sometimes. Music.

Laura could make her guitar talk. The guitar saying the things that Laura felt. I’m so happy. Are you happy? I’m happy. Knock knock. Go away, Susannah. I want to go to sleep. I’m sleepy. Are you happy? I’m so afraid. I’m so sad. I’m so sad.

Laura’s bed, Laura’s closet, Laura’s clothes in drawers and behind the closet door. Susannah can borrow them now and Laura won’t complain. Knock knock. Who’s there? Dear sister, it is I. Your sister. I am here and you are not. Can I borrow your red sweater? Okay. Sure.

Why not.

The jadeite mug on the windowsill holds guitar picks and Chinese fortunes. (You are beautiful and mysterious to all who encounter you.) (Do not fear change.) (Every door will be open to you.) Platitudes and lies.

Susannah stands at Laura’s window. Across the lawn is Daniel’s house, the yellow rectangle of Daniel’s window, a light on in Daniel’s room. Does his mother sit there when she can’t sleep?

Susannah picks up her sister’s old Harmony Sovereign Marveltone acoustic and runs her hand down the neck. “Laura?” Susannah says. “Come back. You should come back or else I’ll do something terrible. I need you to come back.”

She waits for an answer. Gets none. Actually, this is typical of Laura, who believed in the silent treatment. So, Susannah thinks, let’s be typical. She’s tried so hard to be good the last few months. Has anyone even noticed? If Daniel were here, he would have noticed. Mo would have noticed even if he didn’t say anything. She’s pretty f***ing sure Laura would have noticed.

If Daniel were here, he would help her figure out how to live without Laura. If Laura were here, she and Susannah could figure out together how to live without Daniel. But it’s only Susannah. It will only ever be Susannah again, which means that Susannah can’t be Susannah. She doesn’t know how.

Laura’s first guitar was the Harmony. Its previous owner was careless and left it near a radiator one night. This was their father: someone else who isn’t here. If the guitar had still had any value, he’d have taken it with him when he left. Right? Susannah lifts the Harmony over her head and brings it down hard on the corner of Laura’s desk. When this isn’t hard enough, she brings it down again and again until she has smashed what she can into pieces. With the last blow, a section of the neck splits away and ricochets off the window, and there goes the jadeite mug, over onto the desk. Picks spill everywhere, and the handle cracks right off at the lip. Well, that’s a mess. When Susannah crosses the carpet to pick up the mug, she feels something in her heel as if she’s stepped on something sharp. She sits down on Laura’s bed and examines her foot. Yes, there it is, a splinter. She’ll leave it there for now. A reminder of her sins.

What does she feel? The small hurt where a splinter sits. Nothing to cry over, and so she won’t cry.

Susannah gets down on her hands and knees and gathers up all the pieces of the guitar and puts them into Laura’s closet. She puts the mug back on the windowsill, too, turned so that the crack in the lip where the handle ought to be is hidden.

What has she accomplished? Well, maybe wherever she is, Laura felt a psychic twinge of loss. Next time, Susannah thinks, I’m donating all of your Caitlynn Hightower romance novels to Goodwill. I’m going to throw away your Bed Head shampoo and the expensive face stuff that smells like rotten ginger ale even though you always pretended you liked it. I’m going to accept the fact you’re gone forever. F*** you for being dead or whatever it is that happened. Be a secret. See if I care.

Susannah could go downstairs and turn on the TV. She could tear the pangolin to pieces. Smash the shepherdess. She could go into the bathroom and run water over the tender place where the splinter went in. But instead she lies down again on Laura’s bed and pulls the comforter over her head. She’ll wake up when her mother gets home; she has to wake up before Ruth gets home because what if Ruth opens the door to Laura’s room and thinks that Laura is back? What if she opens Susannah’s door and thinks Susannah is gone?

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