Paris by the Book (Callanan)

Paris By the Book 
Liam Callanan, 2018
Penguin Publishing
368 pp.

A missing person, a grieving family, a curious clue: a half-finished manuscript set in Paris. Heading off in search of its author, a mother and her daughters find themselves in France, rescuing a failing bookstore and drawing closer to unexpected truths.

Once a week, I chase men who are not my husband…

When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected spot, plane tickets to Paris.

Hoping to uncover clues—and her husband—Leah sets off for France with her girls. Upon their arrival, she discovers an unfinished manuscript, one Robert had been writing without her knowledge … and that he had set in Paris.

The Eady women follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. The whole store? Today? Yes, but Leah's biggest surprise comes when she hears herself accepting the offer on the spot.

As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they can't help but trace the literary paths of some beloved Parisian classics, including Madeline and The Red Balloon, hoping more clues arise. But a series of startling discoveries forces Leah to consider that she may not be ready for what solving this mystery might do to her family—and the Paris she thought she knew.

At once haunting and charming, Paris by the Book follows one woman's journey as her story is being rewritten, exploring the power of family and the magic that hides within the pages of a book. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1968 (?)
Raised—Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Education—B.A., Yale; M.A., Georgetown University; M.F.A., George Mason University
Awards—Edgar Award (nomination)
Currently—lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin

Liam Callanan is an American author and associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. His novels include The Cloud Atlas (2004) and All Saints (2007), and Paris by the Book (2018).

Callanan earned his BA at Yale, his MA (both in English) at Georgetown University, and an MFA in creative writing at George Mason University.

Currently, Callanan is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where he teaches creative writing. He has served as the Chair of the English Department and coordinated the Ph.D. in Creative Writing program. He also conducts workshops in creative writing for graduate students at other universities.

In addition to his teaching and writing Callanan is the creator and co-executive producer of the Poetry Everywhere animated film series, which is an offshoot of an effort to spread poetry by means of video displays on Milwaukee County Transit System buses.

Writing, etc.
Callanan's fiction includes The Cloud Atlas (2004, not to be confused with David Mitchell's novel of the same title), All Saints (2007), the short story collection Listen (2015), and the novel Paris by the Book (2018).

In addition to writing, has contributed short stories to a number of small magazines and literary journals (print and online) including The Awl, Blackbird, Caketrain, Crab Orchard Review, failbetter, Phoebe, Southern Indiana Review, and The Writer's Chronicle.

With the worldwide success of the book and the film Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, some confusion has arisen between that work of science fiction and Callanan's unrelated 2004 novel, which is set in Alaska during World War II and the 21st century. He has written on the confusion of titles in the online essay, "Ways In Which The Movie Cloud Atlas Has Changed My Life."

He and his wife Susan live with their children in Shorewood, Wisconsin. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 4/12/2018.)

Book Reviews
(Starred review.) [S]ublime.… Callanan has crafted a beautifully-drawn portrait of a woman interrupted set among the exquisite magic of Paris, where life frequently imitates art and the ghosts of the past linger just out of sight. The mystery of Robert’s fate keeps the pages turning, but the real story lies in Leah’s rediscovery of herself.
Publishers Weekly

Plane tickets left behind by Leah's vanished husband, offbeat novelist Robert Eady, send Leah and her daughters to Paris. There, an unfinished manuscript points them to an English-language bookstore that Leah impulsively buys. From award-winning journalist and Edgar finalist Callanan.
Library Journal

Callanan has woven a tale of grief, resentment, and the everyday madness of equivocating the unfathomable.… Callanan’s sweet and compulsively readable tale invites readers to fall in love with Paris, Leah, and her family.

A pointedly literary romance …about a Wisconsin woman who moves to Paris …after her husband's disappearance.… While Callanan writes about the difficulties of family relationships and the creative process with a knowing hand, the magical Paris he creates feels forced and threadbare.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for PARIS BY THE BOOK … then take off on your own:

1. Did you connect with the Eady women—Leah and her daughters? What do you make of them?

2. What about Robert? He is somewhat of an enigma, not just to us the readers, but to his wife.  How would you describe him…and his demons?
3. As we learn more and more about the Eady's marriage, what were the problems fraying the edges of the relationsip?

4. Does Leah really want Robert back? Or is she (secretly) relieved to be out from under his unhappiness? What do you think?

5. Why do YOU think Robert left? Why do you think Leah, even though abandoned, remains in love with him? Would you still love someone who abandoned you?

6. Liam Callanan uses a female as his narrative voice. How well does he inhabit a woman's perspective? Does he capture the essence of a lonely, heart-broken woman and exhausted single parent?

7. Paris by the Book is replete with literary references. Talk about how it explores the impact literature has on our lives and how we carry around with us remnants of books we've read. In what way, for instance, does Leah's love of The Red Balloons (movie and book) mirror—symbolically—her experiences in Paris?

8. Does the author do a good job of capturing Paris in all its richness and magic?

9. In discussing the pace of the book, some readers felt it took too long to get moving. Others were swept along from the beginning and turning pages rapidly by the end. What was your experience reading Paris by the Book?

10. Are you satisfied with the ending—or were you hoping for a different outcome?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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