Joy Preble’s novel, Finding Paris, is a soul-searching, exploratory and intriguing story of two sisters, Paris and Leo Hollings. Paris and Leo are polar opposites. Paris is artistic, ethereal, beautiful and a bit impulsive, where Leo, (short for Leonora), is serious, bookish and dedicated to breaking free from her current life by going to college. The girls live in Las Vegas with their absentee, blackjack dealer mother and their gambling addict stepfather Tommy. Paris and Leo both seem to be fixated on escaping certain aspects of their home and themselves and as the story grows, these ideas of escape and the reasons for the emotions, will become very real for everyone.
Suffering from a breakup, Paris decides in the middle of the night that she needs pie to mend her broken heart and forces Leo to go to the Heartbreak Hotel Diner where Paris also works as a hostess. Settled into a booth under the watchful eye of the night shift server Maureen, the sisters talk about the breakup, school and the cute boy who also happens to be in the diner at 2 am. When Leo gets up the courage to go speak to the good looking stranger, a door opens for the next section of the story. Max is smart, engaging and curious and Leo enjoys talking to him, so much so that she doesn’t find it strange when Paris says she’s stepping out for a bit. When Max and Leo emerge into the parking lot, they notice that Paris and her car are nowhere to be found. Paris has vanished and her phone is going straight to voicemail. Leo is in a panic and soon discovers a note inside the diner from her sister that explains that she had to do this and that Leo needs to find her. Max graciously takes Leo home and the pair are met with indifference from Leo’s mother and stepfather on the missing Paris. The task of searching for Paris seems to rest solely on Leo and Max.
The search for Paris leads to more notes and more discoveries with every turn. The relationships and conversations in Finding Paris are expressive, real and potent. The reader will feel as if they are standing in a tense living room with Tommy and Leo or riding in a car with Leo and Max. The twisted, emotional scavenger hunt that Paris sends Leo on is a journey to save not only Paris, but also Leo from something that she needs to face, yet also escape. For Paris, fleeing was the only logical choice that she had in order to make Leo see what she needed to do to set herself free. Joy Preble’s novel is different, exciting, heart wrenching, but also heartwarming. The story moves quickly into its own special place and the characters are strong, even when they are vulnerable. Finding Paris is an emotional, touching read that acts as a reminder that everyone has demons or is fighting for something or someone in their lives.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.wordpress.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Balzer + Bray. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.