The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner (2021) Review

Sisterhood of the travelling jar

Why I picked up the book:

The Lost Apothecary follows three heroines in two timelines as their lives are woven together by a secret apothecary and what it represents – an underground network of women who use Nella’s potions to exact revenge on the men who wronged them. It’s a book about women empowering themselves and others!

The book through my criteria lens:

The Lost Apothecary was a strong debut with a terrific, fresh, and promising plot. The execution of the idea left me wanting more, though. Not to say Penner didn’t do a good job, I think I just went into it with the wrong expectations – I wanted more fantasy, more magic.

This book is told in a dual timeline – present days and the 1700’s. Unfortunately, the current narrative was not as tight as the past narrative. If this book had taken place only in the 1700’s it would have been a 5-star read. Nella and Eliza were terrific characters; the “past” plot was tight, the flow and pace were impeccable. It was gripping, compelling, and emotional. I was invested in those women and honestly felt conflicted about cheering for them to poison men, but I believed they believed they were doing the right thing. They were “neutral good.” Their choice was just and right according to their moral compass. Amazing! The present narrative just fell flat, and I didn’t particularly relate or like Caroline. 

My personal feelings:

 The one thing Penner did well was to send out the message that we have the power to break away from abusive relationships and can rely on others to do so. 

The overall female empowerment was fantastic. I just wish that Caroline’s story was as powerful as Nella and Eliza’s. If Gaynor had actually been a keeper of the lost apothecary and part of a hidden and secret society of women who have survived the centuries and had recruited Caroline. That would have made this book a masterpiece. 

Caroline’s husband was a joke, and a sorry excuse for a man, even all the men from the 1700s were more interesting and fleshed out. I will not give spoilers, but those were men who deserved punishment; what they did was atrocious. Do I condone poisoning? No. But if you consider poison an analogy for women taking their power back, those men got their dues!

On a more positive note, I absolutely adored Eliza. She is a fantastic character. Her relationship with Nella was so beautiful. It was tender and loving, and you could see how much Nella cared for her, like a daughter. And all of her actions reflected that. 

There are a lot of things to love about the Lost Apothecary. And I highly recommend it. I just wish both narratives had been consistent. 

Enjoyability     8

Characters       7

Ambience        5

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        6

My total rating: 3.83

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

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