Linda Bloodworth Thomason shows the same creativity she used as a
writer for such television programs as "M*A*S*H" and "The Mary
Tyler Moore Show" in LIBERATING PARIS. The book's title leads a
reader to anticipate a story about World War II. However,
Thomason's first novel is set in Paris, Arkansas. Six childhood
friends mature and deal with evolutions in each of their lives that
affect the others. In addition, the town's face has changed and the
characters must deal with the manifestations of that
Woodrow McIlmore the Third, "Wood" to his friends, is the epitome
of success in his hometown of Paris, Arkansas. Married to the
perfect wife, Milan, father of Charlie and Elizabeth, beloved town
doctor Wood enters middle age with a generous lot of blessings. He
reflects on his past and those souls whose influence has been the
greatest in his life, at the funeral service for his father, Dr.
Woodrow McIlmore, Jr.
Five compatriots from childhood join with Wood in his grief. Earl
Brundidge, Jr., Mavis Pinkerton and Carl Jeter, along with Milan,
share memories that none will forget. The unmentioned sixth member
of the friends' group has moved from Paris. Her name is rarely
mentioned. Wood's mother Slim is a woman's libber before her time
and encourages them in unconventional behavior (for the era).
A complication in the form of one Sidney Garfinkel is apparent at
the funeral. He offers consolation to Slim, and Wood resents him
for interfering with his mother's grief. To intensify matters
further, Elizabeth announces that she has fallen in love with and
plans to marry the following summer Luke Childs, son of the
maligned sixth member of Wood's friendship circle.
As Mavis puts it to Milan, "Do you really think it would matter
that much to Elizabeth if she knew that her daddy had a - an affair
with her fiancée's mother?"
Kathleen Duffer, "Duff," anticipates a joyful reunion with her
former lover when their children decide to marry. But she's
reluctant to renew a friendship with Milan, her rival for Wood's
affection. Now divorced, her mid-life femininity renews with a
vengeance. Wood finds himself once more the prize for the victor of
the sexual battle.
The group evolves in life changes, but their friendships stand
time's tests. Mavis discovers sexual realities and makes
life-altering decisions. Jeter's life as a paraplegic takes on new
meaning when he joins her in those choices. Brundidge, divorced
father of two little girls, discovers a new relationship that will
ultimately change him.
Thomason's witty dialogue and humorous metaphors make for a
hilarious story, but one that is filled with pathos and hope as
well. Underlying the problems faced, the six friends tackle
feelings about the major event in Paris, a large discount Fed-Mart
store. Small-town business will change forever.
My initial reaction to LIBERATING PARIS, with its misleading title,
was cautious. Initially I wasn't certain that I would discover its
redeeming qualities, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not the
world-famous liberation of a great city but the emancipation of
individuals in a tiny community fascinated me. LIBERATING PARIS is
about ordinary people dealing with change in small-town USA, about
bittersweet lives in a real world.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 30, 2010