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“Sensual and seductive, Paris Was the Place pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. Find your nearest chair and start reading. With her poet's eye, Conley has woven a vivid, masterful tale of love and its costs.” —Lily King, author of Father of the Rain
When Willie Pears begins teaching at a center for immigrant girls who are all hoping for French asylum, she has no idea it will change her life. As she learns their stories, the lines between teaching and mothering quickly begin to blur. Willie has fled to Paris to create a new family for herself by reaching out to her beloved brother, Luke, and her straight-talking friend, Sara. She soon falls for Macon, a charming, passionate French lawyer, and her new family circle seems complete. But Gita, a young girl at the detention center, is determined to escape her circumstances, no matter the cost. And just as Willie is faced with a decision that could have potentially dire consequences for both her relationship with Macon and the future of the center, Luke is taken with a serious, as-yet-unnamed illness, forcing Willie to reconcile with her father and examine the lengths we will go to for the people we care the most about.
In Paris Was the Place, Conley has given us a beautiful portrait of on how much it matters to belong: to a family, to a country, to any one place, and how this belonging can mean the difference in our survival. This is a profoundly moving portrait of some of the most complicated and glorious aspects of the human existence: love and sex and parenthood and the extraordinary bonds of brothers and sisters. It is a story that reaffirms the ties that bind us to one another.
This ebook edition includes a reading group guide.
Paris is the place where Willow "Willie" Pears can finally live near her brother Luke, who's moved there with his boyfriend after years in China. She'll teach poetry, try to get over her mother's death, and, as the story begins, volunteer at a political asylum center, helping teenage girls practice their English while they wait for their court dates. That's where she meets attorney Macon Ventri. Willie, as she tells us, has an "eager face" that makes her "hard to deny." The same could be said of the book; it's tenderhearted, earnest, and sincere in ways that make it hard to deny, even when Willie gets over-involved with Gita, one of the asylum seekers, and is surprised at the trouble she causes; or when it takes Willie and the other characters much too long to diagnose Luke's persistent cough and exhaustion. As Conley (The Foremost Good Fortune) draws her, Willie may be a bit precious, but she's also a true believer not only in poetry but in love and the heart of the book is the interlocking love stories, between Willie and the almost-to-good-to-be-true Macon, as well as between sister and brother, daughter and mother, and Willie and her asylum-seeking student.