Leah met Robert when he saw her shoplifting “The Red Balloon”, chased her down, only to reveal he not only paid for the book she stole, he also bought her another, “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans. So begins the great romance that led them from Paris, Wisconsin, to Paris, France, though not together. She dreamed of Paris, but they didn’t have the money so he took her to Paris, WI, and proposed, promising someday. But marriage and children and work and his faltering career as a writer kept postponing someday.

Leah was all for Albert Lamorisse and “The Red Balloon” but then she wanted to be a filmmaker and Robert was all in for Bemelmans, but both of them were fascinated by Paris. They raised their two daughters to love both stories and they were a mostly happy family. Sometimes Robert would take off for a writeaway–a break to get some serious writing done by holing up somewhere without distraction. But then he leaves without a note promising his return and does not come back in a few days or even in a week, or ever.

Leah discovers he bought tickets to Paris for the whole family, including himself, so they go. She can’t help hoping he will be there at the airport but no luck. While they are there, they learn he entered a story into a contest and won a small prize. They print out the story outline and it sounds like it’s about them, a family moving to Paris to open a bookstore, so they follow the story, find a bookstore, and try to fulfill the story. Unspoken but always in their minds, the hope that he will find them persists.

I love stories set in  Paris and I adore stories with bookstores, so Paris by the Book didn’t just speak to me, it stood up, jumped up and down, waved its arms, and yelled at me from across the room, “This book is for you!”  Then I read it. So much of it did speak to me. I love the writing about the books, the city, the bookstore and geographical shelving. I really loved the geographical shelving and it’s worth reading just for that alone.

On the other hand, Leah and Robert were a problem. I am completely unable to understand Robert at all. I know it “takes all kinds” but he seems unnatural. I also think Leah was so very wrong not to talk it out with her children when she had information one way or another, or even to discuss her doubts and fears. They were teens, old enough to deserve an open conversation about what is true, false, and real about their father’s disappearance or death. Here’s the thing, you just know someday, perhaps in five years, or ten, or twenty, they will learn the truth and lose faith in their mother, their only remaining parent.

I received an e-galley of Paris by the Book from the publisher through NetGalley.