Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review of Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

Review of Paris in Love by Eloisa James

It's not often that I splurge on a Kindle book over $10. And this one was $12.99. It is an extremely rare occurrence. But word-on-the-street was that this book was fabulous. And so I splurged. With just the slightest of guilty pangs as I pushed the one-click button at Amazon.

When I started to read it, and I realized that it was Facebook status updates strung together, I was pissed! (Just ask Julia Barrett, who was my roommate in Salem). "What is this!" I complained. Loudly. "There is no rhyme or reason to this. There's no story arc. It's meandering. I sure hope this structure doesn't last for the whole damned book." Julia nodded her head in sympathy and probably thought, "Uh oh. Penelope's on a rampage."

But something happened yesterday. I sat down with a glass of red wine and my Kindle, and I started to read. The short, unconnected observations about life in Paris continued. Many about food. Some about Parisian clothing stores. Funny stories about James' family and pudgy dog. A homeless man on the street. The color of the sky.

And I stopped trying to find a common theme. I stopped looking for structure...a beginning, middle and end. I stopped searching for the overlying story arc that would connect all these bits and pieces into something tight and meaningful.

And I just read.

And I got lost in this meandering journey with James. I tasted the flaky, buttery fish with her. And I cringed at her daughter's bullying stories. I laughed with her, and I cried. A lot. There are an uncanny number of similarities between our two lives....we both have younger quirky daughters, surly teenage sons, best friend husbands, and cool dogs. And that one moment in our lives that changed everything. Hers was this... "the biopsy was positive." And mine, "Your EKG is abnormal"---that moment that I realized I was not experiencing hot flashes after all, and my life (if I was lucky enough to still have it) was going to change dramatically.

And so, when I finished this book last night, I was in awe of James' brilliance. Because our lives are not tight, structured novels with overlying story arcs. They are simple moments strung together. Silly moments, profound moments, beautiful moments, angry moments. We meander from one to the next, jumping along, as though life were a giant hopscotch grid.

One of the best observations she made concerned how people walk. In New York City, they are rushing to their destination. There is no stopping to say hello and kiss a friend, chat with a homeless man, stop to smell a freshly baked baguette. James had to learn to slow down in Paris. Even something as simple as walking down the sidewalk was a totally different experience, and she embraced this new approach. And she took it home with her to the States.

This book is a lovely, charming and meandering reminder to embrace our moments. I'm so glad Eloisa James chose to share her year in Paris with all of us.

Grade: A

Meandering along,