Recommendations for writing a can’t-put-down book: Make your protagonist funny, introspective or complicated—better yet, all three—as well as someone whom readers will immediately recognize and feel compassion for. That compassion has to hold up no matter how dubious the protagonist’s choices. For 29-year-old Amy Brodie, the decision to go to Paris is hardly questionable, but how she goes about it is. While her engineer husband is away on business, she sneaks away from their Phoenix home and boards a plane, intending to use cash she has stored away and to lie to her husband during daily phone calls. “Kat’s death, William’s wanting to start a family, the siren song of food—I traveled ten thousand miles…to get away from those things,” she says. Food, or the avoidance of it, controls every aspect of Amy’s life. She lives by a set of dieting rules. Rule No.11: “abstention is easier than moderation”; rule No.25: “feast your eyes first.” Of course, Paris isn’t exactly the best place to avoid carbs; neither is it a great place to avoid self-awareness. The Plan doesn’t go quite according to itself, and before long, Amy is trekking through Paris’ underground with a ragtag team of Frenchmen and sampling buttery croissants. Although Burns excels at the “rules” of good writing, her well-crafted novel is too moving to be formulaic. Amy’s struggle through her grief is touching, as is her feeling of being trapped. “Being demoted from independent working woman to dependent unemployed spouse can freak out a person” she says. “I want to get away from this life that has somehow become my life.” Her attempt to escape never stops being an absorbing adventure—not until the gratifying final moments, when we find out whether she succeeds.
A lovely ode to Paris, friendship, spontaneity and forks—both on the plate and in the road.