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MAY 23

Cathleen Schine’s The Love Letter is a beach read with substance; it’s optimistic, buoyant, and sensual—and as literary as the independent bookstore in which it’s set. Schine casts her central character, 40-year-old divorcée and bookshop owner Helen MacFarquhar, as an irrepressible flirt; readers are drawn in by the character’s warmth and magnetism. When Helen is herself seduced by a passionate, anonymous missive that arrives in her store’s morning mail, Schine wittily details a classic crush scenario. Helen fantasizes what it would be like if her callow, 21-year-old employee, Johnny Howell, were the author of the epistle—and sparks the sort of older-younger romance that’s traditionally the other way around. Schine, who’s also the author of Rameau’s Niece and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine‘s “Endpaper,” reads at 7 p.m. at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495. (Nathalie op de Beeck)