Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like Schrödinger’s cat, Leah Eady’s husband, Robert may or may not be dead. On the surface he’s a supportive husband and all-around awesome dad, but underneath he’s a tormented writer certain a great novel is in him if only he can manage to yank it free. Apparently, he can’t write around his family, so he often goes on short, break-away trips. He usually leaves notes, and returns after a few days; however, he never comes home from his last excursion.
Leah contacts the police, but no leads come up. Robert isn’t not calling, texting or even using his credit cards. The one clue Leah has is an unfinished manuscript about a family moving to Paris to hopes of being reunited with a lost loved one. She remembers sweet dates where Robert took her to Paris, Wisconsin, her husband’s fascination with Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, and the fact that he insisted his daughters attend a French-speaking school to conclude if she’s ever going to see Robert again, it will be in Paris.
Leah and her daughters, Ellie and Daphne, travel to Paris and end up staying. Leah buys into a failing English-language bookshop, which she and her daughters manage. They meet all kinds of colorful characters and we, readers, learn loads about the city of Paris, while the family searches for Robert and succeed in making a new life for themselves.
I love Leah, Ellie and Daphne and their quirky, new friends. They mix grief with adventure as they navigate their new ex-patriot lives and prove they can remain a family without Robert. Still, as readers, we aren’t sure about Robert’s being alive or dead until Leah comes to terms with his disappearance in a wonderfully satisfying scene where she throws a book-chucking tantrum. I won’t spoil the mystery by elaborating further.
Some readers might find the plot far-fetched, but I willingly bought into Liam Callanan’s well-spun yarn. If you like whimsical adventures as well as wacky yet heartfelt characters, or if you just want to learn lots about the city of Paris, this is a story for you.