reviewed by Gail Byrd
Joan Bright Blakely had a magical life, at least up until 9/11/2001. Her father was a highly renowned artist who created huge light installations and her mother was a supermodel known worldwide.
Then, her father was killed in the tragic events of 9/11, and Joan as well as her mother, went into a life that was more marking space and time than actually living. Yes, she had a job, and she functioned daily, but she stopped pursuing any of her goals in life. She married a second rate artist, and got on with the task of daily living.
Then, her husband came into her work, announced he had a second family that consisted of two five-year-old twins and he wanted a divorce. She first was devastated, then got angry and in the space of 24 hours had locked him out of her life. Still, she didn’t try to change her own life until she was given the opportunity to act as courier for some artwork that was being sold to a Parisian gallery.
On that trip, Joan encountered an abundance of unexpected events, starting with an upgrade from coach to business class that came with a seat next to an attractive, unattached man, to the theft of the artwork. In an attempt to find the art, and save her job, Joan embarked on a series of activities with the intent of capturing whoever had stolen the art and returning it to the gallery. As she began a series of activities she experienced a multitude of things that she had been closed off from as she grieved. First she accused her handsome seatmate, then she went on what amounts to a treasure hunt throughout Paris, being led by an unknown person from place to place in an effort to solve the mystery of where the art was and who had stolen it.
Before the entire adventure was over, Joan had encountered much that she had closed herself off from over the years. Her sense of beauty and her place in the art world were reawakened and she developed more enthusiasm for life. Finally the mystery man who had been leading her around France on a merry chase revealed himself, her mother becomes involved and in the process reawakens and decides to reinvent her former self, at least to a small degree, and Joan begins to live again, without the pall of never-ending sadness that has come from grieving the death of her father.
The adventures and the growth Joan experiences are a delightful read, as is the opportunity for the reader to spend some time in France. While there are questions as to the identity of the mystery man, there is little thought that he has anything sinister in mind for Joan. At the same time, his motivation is unclear until the book is almost at its end.
This is a delightful tale of recovery and return to life for someone who has experienced a devastating loss. It is also an opportunity to imagine some time in France as well as in the bohemian world inhabited by many artists. There are no huge surprises, but some small ones that are sufficient to maintain interest. Joan is a realistic, sympathetic character and her previous lifestyle is believable and somewhat enviable for those who have lead a more conventional life. The book moves at an excellent pace and presents a totally satisfying read.
I thank William Morrow and Custom House for an advanced reader copy of the novel for this review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
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