This is a good book and well written. It contains a unique combination of humor, pathos, wisdom, folly and symbolism. The writing is filled with little gems worthy of being quoted (see examples at the end of this review). However as with most novels, some improper activity is required to create a crisis that needs to be overcome. The improper activity I'm referring to in this case is numerous and varied, but most significantly includes marital infidelity (which I don't approve of). But readers of this book who persevere through to the end are rewarded with a surprise, but happy, ending.
But to be fair, I need to warn social conservatives that the ending is probably not to your liking. This book does a reasonably good job at capturing the spirit of a typical small American town. However, most small towns have not been liberated in the manner described by this book.
With reference to the book's title; We're talking Paris, Arkansas, not the other Paris. And the word, "liberating," is not referring to World War II. I was surprised to learn that the author didn't use a fictitious name for the town's name. There actually is a Paris, Arkansas, population 3,700. I wonder what people who live in Paris, Arkansas think of this book. The downtown business district of the Paris described in this book contains mostly boarded up store fronts because all commerce has moved to the edge of town where the big box "Fed-Mart" (think Wal-Mart) store is located. I wonder how that compares to the actual conditions in the real Paris, Arkansas. The author is a native of Poplar Bluff, Missouri and a graduate of MU. Which makes me wonder, why did she pick on Paris, Arkansas? As far as I know this is the only novel that Linda Bloodworth Thomason has written. She is obviously a good writer, and has written numerous screen plays for television. I hope she decides to write more books.
The following are some quotations from the book:
This is the reflection on the life of an old man who is about to die:
"The boy and his horse had once set out for the sun and quickly learned what others had tried to put into words---that becoming is probably better than being, that there is only one thing in between and that is the ride. The ride is everything---not
the arrival at some distant or imagined spot of light from which you would probably just see another spot of light and then another until you didn't know where you were or maybe you would even fall from the sky like Icarus for flying too near the sun or end up floating facedown in your swimming pool like Gatsby, who had worshipped too closely to the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. No, there was no question about it: Forget about the light, Just keep you head down and stay on the ride.
These are the complaints of an older woman about the new big-box super store located at the edge of town:
"This is everything we don't wish our little town to be---ugly, impersonal, and, frankly, based on the Communist assumption that larger and undistinguished is better. I personally do not care to join the hoards of slack-jawed strangers overflowing their rubber thongs while steering pushcarts filled with T-shirts, plastic junk, and babies who sneeze Popsicle juice on you."
These are the musings of a traditionally built woman wishing the world would appreciate her body type more:
"What Mavis wanted to see waddling down the catwalk was a huge, happy, honking three-hundred-pound "you can kiss my fat ass" kind of gal, with celluite forearms and hamhock thighs draped in some fabulous designer togs."
The following is advice offered by a Holocaust survivor to a newly widowed woman who is suffering from depression:
"Keep moving. Have a goal, One day you will arrive at a place that is better than the place where you were, even if it is only in your head."
Here is a description of the puzzlement of the inhabitants of the old folks home regarding the strange new ways of the outside world:
"They felt they didn't understand the world anymore or anything in it. This strange new place where rules took precedence over common sense and committees were formed to deduce things that children would know. Where people told all their secrets on national talk shows and appeared on the covers of magazines, not for their strengths, but their weaknesses. Where even criminals had no honor now, but killed people just for the fun of it and destroyed things simply because they were there. These old people were glad to be going deaf so they couldn't hear the songs that no one could hum. They were happy not to have cars, because there was no one left to put the gas in. And they seldom made phone calls anymore, because what they mostly got were recordings."