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To start: No one hates books in "The Book Haters' Book Club," Gretchen Anthony's lively, Minneapolis-based paean to small independent bookstores and the people who keep them going against the tide. This story isn't really about books at all, but the delicate dynamics among mothers, daughters and partners (domestic and otherwise).

Irma Bedford is the longtime proprietor of the Lyn-Lake bookstore Over the Rainbow, so dubbed by her late business partner, Elliot, in honor of his beloved Judy Garland. (Anthony name-checks Magers & Quinn and Moon Palace, but the Rainbow is a product of her imagination.) It's the kind of place someone might come to find a book on cubism for her 4-year-old grandson. It's also the kind of place a big bad developer would want to buy and tear down to build some soulless condos.

To the dismay of her daughter Bree and Elliot's life partner, Thom, Irma intends to let this happen. Thom is still reeling from the loss of Elliot and mostly just wants a fair cut of the sale proceeds. Bree, pushing 40 and with seemingly no life outside the store, is near hysterical at the news. And the wild card, daughter Laney, also pushing 40 (they aren't twins — it's complicated), blows in from California with her own unresolved feelings toward her mother, her sister, the bookstore and the Neanderthal husband she left behind.

Bree, Thom and Laney patch up their estrangements long enough to form a cabal aiming to undermine the sale, a subterfuge that involves a guy in a trench coat and a nightly dance party in a nearby vacant lot to drum up publicity. But that endgame is a red herring, and another crisis rears its head mid-novel, thanks to Irma's evasiveness about her reasons for selling.

Ah, the maddingly obtuse Irma. The ambiguity surrounding her intentions and her real feelings toward Elliot lend a welcome air of mystery to the enterprise; we're never quite sure if she's a villain or victim in the whole scheme. We do know she's an integral and beloved part of the close-knit neighborhood, one with the family-owned hardware store next door and the trendy distillery across the street. Anthony deftly conjures a "Lyn-Lake" that's not unlike the real one.

And she turns some lovely phrases — Thom had "grown so thin that the once-lovely [sweaters] hung from his bones, mildewed tapestries on an ancient manor wall." Bree, in her dithering angst about a possible new love, "was starting to sound like a Jane Austen character. Not one of the redeemable ones like Elizabeth or Jane but a tiresome, ridiculous one like their mother." But Anthony often lapses into too-cute descriptions and dialogue, and Elliot — who springs from the grave with "dear reader" interludes — comes off as particularly annoying.

But these are quibbles. Local readers will delight in the references that pepper the pages — Turtle Bread! Patisserie 46! Bde Maka Ska! — and readers of all stripes will eat up the actual book recommendations that pop up. So maybe "The Book Haters' Book Club" is about books, just a little. As the grandmother looking into cubism puts it: "A neighborhood without a bookstore is as dull as a life without books."

Cynthia Dickison is a features designer at the Star Tribune.

The Book Haters' Book Club

By: Gretchen Anthony.

Publisher: Park Row, 336 pages, $28.99.

Events: Book launch, in conversation with Josh Moehling, 7 p.m. Sept. 12, Magers & Quinn, Mpls.; in conversation with Nicole Kronzer and Mindy Mejia, 7 p.m. Sept. 15, SubText Books, St. Paul; Literature Lovers' Night Out, 7 p.m. Sept. 28, Zephyr Theater, Stillwater, tickets $15.