Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Paris for One & Other Stories - Jojo Moyes

Summary:  Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris.  She's never even been on a romantic weekend away -- to anywhere -- before. Traveling abroad isn't really her thing.  But when Nell's boyfriend fails to show up for their mini-vacation, she has a chance to prove everyone -- including herself-- wrong. Alone in Paris, Nell finds a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life?

In the eight other stories, Jojo Moyes gives us a cast of strong, relatable women in the midst of their everyday lives. In "Crocodile Shoes," a businesswoman's blossoming confidence emerges from a fateful locker-room mix-up.  A desperate holiday shopper strikes up an unexpected friendship just in the nick of time in "The Christmas List." And in both "Love in the Afternoon" and "A Bird in the Hand," two couples dance around the trickiness of longtime marriage.  In this irresistible new collection, readers will be whisked from elegant perfume shops to taxis to five-star hotel rooms and more.

Jojo Moyes always makes the ordinary moments in women's lives,extraordinary. Funny, charming, and unmissable, Paris for One and Other Stories is Moyes at her best.  (Summary from book sleeve - Image from Amazon)

My Review:  I love Jojo Moyes. She has been writing successfully for a while, but I first heard of her back in 2016 when I read Lara's review of her NYT bestselling novel, Me Before You.  I was on my reviewing hiatus at the time, but I immediately put the book on hold at my local library and fell head over heels for her writing style and beautifully-crafted characters. I'm actually kind of sad that I didn't review it here myself.  And, uh, on that note....
*My mini-review of Me Before You*  I absolutely adored Me Before You; it was couldn't-put-it-down, give-you-all-the-feels, amazing.  I smiled.  I laughed. I bawled (a lot).  There are some sensitive reader issues (see Lara's review), but the relationship between the two main characters is unbelievably endearing, complicated, and just everything. 5 Stars. 
Sorry.  I had to get that out of my system.  Back to Paris.  For this particular review, I'm going to give you a little teaser to each of the stories, in the order they appear, followed by my *brief* thoughts (found in parenthesis):

Paris for One tells the story of a thoroughly predictable young woman who makes the unlikely decision to travel to Paris alone after she is stood-up by her degenerate boyfriend.  Her story slowly beings to intertwine with another character who has recently suffered a significant setback.  (This story is the longest of the nine stories in the collection and takes over half the book, but it's completely worth it. In short, it's romantic and lovely and ends exactly how you begin to hope it will.) 

Between the Tweets follows a female P.I. trying to clear the name of a prominent newsman accused of having an affair.  (This is probably the story I identified with the least, but it was only 11 pages and ends with an ironic twist.)  

Love in the Afternoon tells the story of a married couple that take a weekend away to try to recover a little romance, but find settling in a little hard to do.  (This story felt a little too familiar as it deftly exposed the ruts married couples sometimes fall into when they stop trying to nourish the relationship.  It was a nice reminder to take time for each other.)

A Bird in the Hand follows a woman and her husband to a party she does not want to attend.  There, she run into an old flame and their ensuing conversation reveals something potentially life-changing.  (Sometimes Jojo Moyes likes to dangle major decisions in front of her characters and just leave the reader hanging for a while, holding their breath and hoping the character will make the 'right' one.  This is one of those stories.)

Crocodile Shoes is a delightful story about a woman who ends up with the wrong bag after her workout and must wear another woman's shoes to series of meetings.  (Without spoiling things I'll just say that this story just brought a smile to my face. What a difference a pair of 'unsuitable' shoes can make!)

Holdups is the quirkiest of all the stories -- just your run-of-the-mill 'meet-cute' in the middle of a jewelry heist.  (This one was strange but kind of adorable. It's rare you find yourself rooting for the bad guy to find love.)

Last Year's Coat follows a mother who needs a new coat (and longs for a particular one), but is continually putting her needs on the back burner to meet those of her family.  (If I had to pick a story that felt most like my life, this would be it, which made the ending all the sweeter.)

Thirteen Days with John C. is perhaps the darkest of all the stories as it involves a woman who finds a lost cellphone and begins texting with a mysterious stranger.  (If I had to pick a 'least favorite' this would be it. Still, there is a suitably twisty and strangely satisfying ending.)

The Christmas List is about a woman in the midst of some last minute Christmas shopping, trying to satisfy the demands of an entitled husband and a demanding mother-in-law.  She meets a kindly stranger and the night takes an unexpected turn.   (If you've ever felt underappreciated by those who should know better. you'll love this one.  Everyone got exactly what they deserved in the end. Perfection.)

So, that's the run down. I love short stories and I'm always amazed at what a good author can put you through in just a few pages. There is something exhilarating about being dropped into the middle of scene with only a brief time to understand and connect with the characters before *POOF* it's all over.  Because the stories centered around everyday women, they felt relatable in a myriad of ways and so it was easy to emotionally invest the characters, even if our lives weren't strictly similar.

Reading an entire book in one sitting has become a cherished rarity these days (because kids), but I'm usually able to fully devour at least one short story at a time.  Paris for One & Other Stories satisfied the craving I had to finish a book.  Nine times.  It was glorious.   This book wasn't earth shattering, but I don't think it was meant to be.  Rather, it was comforting, insightful, enchanting, and a genuine pleasure to read.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars.  

For the sensitive reader:  Okay, so I was pretty entrenched in this book and not paying a whole lot of attention, but I don't remember any major swear words.  There are a few instances of implied sex, but nothing detailed.  Some allusion to cheating, but again, nothing detailed.

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