Book Review: The Forbidden Bookstore of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson


Right now, one of the most talked about topics in the literary world is the new campaign to ban books that some people find inappropriate. This creates a problem for several reasons. First of all, it’s another form of censorship. Second, books offer readers an escape route. Not only do they take us to places in our imaginations we never would have imagined, they also give us comfort because some of the stories we’re drawn to can be related to our lives. Hence the book by Shauna Robinson The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks comes at the perfect time.

The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks follows Maggie, a young black woman who goes to the small town of Bell River, Maryland, where she temporarily takes on the managerial position at her friend Rochelle’s bookstore. Maggie is trying to figure out her place in the world and what she wants out of life with her career. She sees this as an opportunity to clear her head until she decides what her next move will be.

What’s so great about that The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks is that it feels like a love letter to all book lovers. And it can be a way of attracting people who aren’t necessarily big readers. Maggie is a relatable character because she’s not your typical book lover. When she starts working in Rochelle’s shop, she meets some interesting people and she can’t understand why anyone would want to spend so much time on books.

Maggie figured she’d just go in there all day, run the shop, and sell various books. Her attitude changes when she learns that she can’t sell books from this century, or even books published after 1968, when the town’s literary figure, Edward Bell, died. What makes reading fun when you’re told what you can and can’t read? Working in a bookstore that limits what I can share with other readers would be painful for someone who enjoys reading.

During Maggie’s time at the bookstore and in Bell River, as she gets to know the people, she begins to realize that they, too, aren’t so happy about being stuck in the past. Everything revolves around Edward Bell, and he’s seen as this god-like figure. And of course he’s white, which makes him all the more influential and attractive to tourists hearing about the ‘great Edward Bell’ and his accomplishments. People think he’s a feminist icon, when nothing could be further from the truth.

According to Edward Bell, although the people of Bell River are not interested in continuing to spread the gospel, they do so because it means job security. Everyone is afraid of losing their business if Ralph, who happens to be Edward’s grandson and leader of the Bell Society, should find out they did anything against him. This includes selling books. Maggie’s arrival shakes things up in a big way.

I, Maggie Banks, solemnly swear to abide by the rules of Cobblestone Books.

If only I, Maggie Banks, had believed in following the rules.

When Maggie doesn’t seem to be following the rules the way Ralph wishes, he drastically changes the bookstore, threatening Rochelle’s business. Maggie must come up with a plan because she can’t let her friend lose her shop. This decision is to secretly sell banned books and host private book events.

The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks gave me so many good feelings because Robinson does a great job describing what book events are like. Any person who has been to the smaller ones will have a vivid picture of each of Maggie. I felt nostalgic reading Maggie’s journey to her first book fair because of how much her thoughts about books and book lovers were changing.

While I wouldn’t call The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks A romance, some romance was thrown in. One of the people in town Maggie gets closest to is a guy named Malcolm who works for Ralph as his resident Tattletale. It’s not me being mean. Maggie literally calls him a Tattletale. As he works for the Bell Society, he is tasked with checking all deals to ensure they all comply with Edward Bell.

Unlike Maggie, Malcolm is an avid reader. They are on two different sides when they step into each other’s lives. He is very firm in his ways, including adhering to Ralph’s standards regarding the Bell Society. Maggie brings a new way of thinking to his world and the two start their own book club. His goal is to get them to read more and to realize how much books affect a person’s life. In addition to reading books outside of his comfort zone, she wants him to engage in activities that involve exploring life outside of Bell River.

If you plan to read The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks because you think it’s going to be a story focused on banning books by black authors, it’s not. While there are moments when it’s clear that Robinson is talking about black authors’ works not being sold, and there’s a brief mention of the bookstore only stocking books that are slave tales, the story borrows from that. What is forbidden is mostly focused on things like romance, fantasy and books that are thrillers.

It’s pretty safe ground, which was only a little surprising given that this book is about a black woman working in a bookstore using such antiquated practices. Her friend Rochelle is also a black woman who has struggled with it for years. I understand that this book is more on the rom-com side, so I can understand why the author chose not to make that a focus. The story still conveys the message that our voices are one of the most powerful things we have; When enough people come together and use these voices, they can make a difference.

Read the summary for The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks under.

When Maggie Banks arrives in Bell River to run her best friend’s ailing bookstore, she expects to sell best-sellers to her small-town clientele. But running a bookstore in a city with a famous book story isn’t easy. The Bell River Literary Society insists on keeping the bookstore stuck in the past, and Maggie is forbidden from selling anything written in that century. When a series of mishaps suddenly ruin the bookstore, Maggie must get creative to keep the store afloat.

And in Maggie’s world, book rules are made to be broken.

To save the store, Maggie starts an underground book club that hosts a series of events to celebrate the books readers truly love. But keeping the club quiet, selling banned books and dodging literary society is almost impossible. Especially when Maggie unearths a town secret that could turn everything upside down.

Maggie must decide which is more important: the books that shaped the story of a small town, or the stories poised to change everything.

The Forbidden Bookstore by Maggie Banks is available wherever books are sold.


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