Reel Infatuation Blogathon -Kathleen Kelly of You’ve Got Mail

For the second year in a row, I am happy to be participating in The Reel Infatuation Blogathon. Hosted by Silver Screenings and Font and Frock, this blogathon is all about film, television or book character crushes.


In You’ve Got Mail Kathleen is the owner of New York City children’s bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner. Kathleen is the second generation owner of the store inherited from her mother. The Shop Around the Corner is not just a business to Kathleen, but also home to all of her happy childhood memories with her mother. It is also a beloved neighborhood institution, where the customers and employees are treated like family. Kathleen’s life revolves around her shop. Her secret correspondence with online pen pal NY152 provides her an outlet where she can share her dreams and fears not just about the shop, but also her life.

When “the big, bad, Fox Books” chain arrives in the West Side, it threatens the livelihood Kathleen’s store. On the advice of her anonymous pen pal NY152, she decides to fight a public relations battle with Joe Fox of Fox Books, for the survival of her business.


From my very first viewing of the nineties classic romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, I developed a deep admiration for the heroine, Kathleen Kelly. She is played to perfection by Meg Ryan in one of her best performances. Next to Doris Day, Ryan is my favorite blonde romantic comedienne.

When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

Kathleen is a woman who has retained a child-like sense of wonder and innocence. She delights in her work at the book shop, reading to children at a regular story hour, making friends out of authors who are hosted there, treating her employees like family and being an integral part of the local community. It is not just business for her but a passion. Kathleen is The Shop Around the Corner. She does it all so effortlessly. She doesn’t even realize how well respected she is. Kathleen is simply carrying on a tradition and lifestyle entrusted to her by her mother.

And maybe no one will remember me, either, but plenty of people remember my mother, and they think she was fine, and they think her store was something special.

Kathleen is kind, compassionate, thoughtful and not easily angered. In fact, she struggles with expressing her frustration and anger at all.

What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said.

The only time she does manage to express her anger is when she is provoked by her nemesis Joe Fox. Expecting to finally meet her anonymous online friend, she is confronted by Joe instead who mocks her. Kathleen’s anger finally loosens her tongue, but her sweet nature eventually leads her to regret her outburst.

 Well… if he’s (her date) not here, he has a reason, because there is not a cruel or careless bone in his body. But I wouldn’t expect you to understand anybody like that. You with your theme park, multi-level, homogenize-the-world mochaccino land. You’ve deluded yourself into thinking that you’re some sort of benefactor, bringing books to the masses. But no one will ever remember you, Joe Fox… You are nothing but a suit!

I also really love Kathleen’s whimsical and optimistic nature. She is the kind of person who sees the glass as half full. She knows how to appreciate the small pleasures of life whether that is a beautiful fall day in New York, a literature classic like Pride and Prejudice, Joni Mitchell songs or a bouquet of “the friendliest flower.”

Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one! It got on at 42nd and off at 59th, where, I assume, it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake, as almost all hats are.

She also has a lovely sense of humor. Kathleen never laughs AT something but WITH someone. And she also knows how to laugh at herself.

But don’t let all her positive attributes fool you.  Kathleen will also fight hard for a cause that she believes in. When the livelihood of her book shop is threatened, she does everything in her power to keep it from going under. She utilizes her connections to bring attention to the plight of The Shop Around the Corner and publicly goes to war with Fox Books.


One thing I especially admire about Kathleen is how easily she forgives. She gives NY152 the benefit of the doubt for standing her up at their first meeting. During a mutual breakup with her boyfriend, she wishes him well with a new love interest. After losing her battle with Fox Books and thereby her book store, Kathleen approves one of her employees to work for Fox. And even though it takes her a while to get over the heartbreak of losing The Shop Around the Corner, she eventually forgives Joe Fox for “the tiny little thing of putting her out of business.” We know she well and truly forgives him, because she allows a friendship to develop between them.

Kathleen Kelly may seem like just another nice blonde heroine, but she is also a phoenix able to rise from the ashes. She is content with her life and confident . But when the worst happens and everything changes, she accepts her loss with grace and dignity. Kathleen takes the time to grieve her heartbreak, but also doesn’t wallow in it. When an opportunity arises to write children’s books herself, she takes it. And when she finally learns the truth about who NY152 is, she wastes no time declaring her feelings.

For all these reasons and more, I believe Kathleen Kelly to be an excellent role model. If I can live with my life with half of her grace and polish, it will be a life well lived.

Don’t forget to check out the other entries of this blogathon over Silver Screenings and Font and Frock.

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8 Replies to “Reel Infatuation Blogathon -Kathleen Kelly of You’ve Got Mail”

  1. Brava! This essay is as insightful and charming as Kathleen Kelly herself.

    You make an excellent point about Kathleen’s forgiveness, which I’ve not really considered before. But now that you’ve focused on it, it’s astounding to consider all she’s been through and she still helps employees and accepts the way her life will be now.

    Your insights have made me want to watch this again and, since it’s supposed to be rainy this weekend, I think it will make for a perfect film. Thanks for joining the blogathon. 🙂

  2. Lovely blogathon entry. I gotta confess, though, that I pretty much enjoyed the movie right until the ending. These two are rivals all the way through the movie (their anonymous emails notwithstanding), and then they just fall in love at the end, despite both’s blitheness at him having put her out of business. I couldn’t buy it.

    1. I see your point. But I feel that those emails allowed them to get to know their true selves without the distraction of their professional rivalry. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that after Joe puts her out of business, he really makes an effort to mend fences and befriend Kathleen.

  3. Thank you so much for participating in the blogathon. This is a really charming piece, and it definitely gives me a new appreciation for the character and film.

  4. I, too, was enchanted by Kathleen. I recently passed by the storefront used as her bookstore in the film. It is now and organic dry cleaners! Lovely post – as enchanting as the heroine.

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