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A Garden in Paris    by Stephanie Grace Whitson order for
Garden in Paris
by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Order:  USA  Can
Bethany, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Two years after being widowed, fifty-year-old Mary Davis is ready to throw in the towel. Looking at a bottle of assorted pills she saved during her domineering husband's long illness, Mary is on the verge of ending her life. But then she comes across a saying: 'It's never too late to be what you might have been.' So instead of taking the pills, Mary writes a letter to an old flame and plans a trip to Paris.

Mary and her daughter Liz have never seen eye-to-eye. Liz was always her father's favorite, and she never understood why her mother became a passive homemaker. When Mary announces that she is traveling to Paris for Christmas, Liz cannot believe it and doesn't understand. There are many things Liz doesn't know about her mother, and it takes Mary's bold step to begin to bridge the gap of communication between the two. Will Mary reconnect with the man she left behind? Is there hope for Liz and Mary to develop a real mother-daughter bond?

This is a sweet story with two parallel plots that converge into one. The first is Mary's self-discovery - her determination to return to Paris and find the parts of herself she left behind many years before. She spent decades hiding behind, and acquiescing to, her rich, powerful husband. The second is Liz's journey to learn about her mother - in the process, she also learns about herself. Both characters seem a bit forced and cardboard. Liz's stubborn refusal to believe anything good about her mother is unrealistic, and Mary's martyrdom is grating.

Other than that, the descriptions of Paris and its culture make the reader feel a part of the story. The secondaries are interesting, varied and add depth to the plot. Each character undergoes a different spiritual transformation, which mirrors real life. They experience struggles and have weaknesses that are similar to our own, making A Garden in Paris more meaningful.

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