Reviewed by Julie S. Halpern.
A Groovy Kind of Love is the third and last book of Karen Wojcik Bernerʼs Bibliophiles trilogy. This unlikely love story focuses on two free-spirited book- obsessed Naperville residents and their unconventional-yet-compelling relationship.
Thaddeus Mumblegarden IV is a fiftyish computer programmer and Anglophile. Raised in Naperville by his ambitious baseball coach dad, Thaddeus III, and long-suffering mom, Maureen, he was a prodigious athlete driven so hard to excel that he suffered physical injuries and abandoned playing. Thaddeus shares his mother’s love of the beautiful and esoteric. Bernerʼs loving description of the former Marshall Field's and downtown Chicago Public Library branch will bring back wonderful memories to readers who experienced these marvels as children. When the elder Mumblegarden refuses to pay for his son’s college unless he studies computers, Thaddeus ultimately opts for a successful, if unfulfilling, career in computer programming. After a failed college romance, he seems destined for eternal bachelorhood.
Spring Pearson, a lonely young woman raised by counterculture parents, has worked at Ambrosia, the family juice bar, since the age of five. While her parents are affectionate, they are also self-absorbed potheads who often leave their daughter to her own devices, creating an unusual family dynamic. At college Spring makes many friends, notably Joshua, a brilliant, ambitious young man bound for law school. While they never quite mesh as lovers, they make a vow to marry if they have not found spouses by the time Joshua is thirty-five and Spring thirty-four. After graduation, they fall out of touch.
Fast forward to the recent past: Spring and Thaddeus meet at a book club run by a warm-hearted eccentric, Edwina Hipplewhite. The club is an oasis for intellectuals seeking a creative outlet in suburban, family-oriented Naperville. They have an immediate attraction, eventually overcome their reticence, and fall in love. As they plan their future together, who should turn up but Joshua, now a high-powered Washington, D.C. attorney wanting to hold Spring to her long-ago vow.
The road to happiness for the bibliophiles proves to be challenging in unexpected ways. Spring is critically injured in a tragic accident and faces a long and difficult rehabilitation. Bernerʻs empathetic description of Springʼs recovery was inspiring. What a pleasure to read such a life-affirming novel. A Groovy Kind of Love is the perfect summer read.