Happy to post here my first “official” review for The Paris Effect*, from Kirkus Reviews:
“In Burns’ (The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, 2009) novel, a perpetual dieter decides, after her best friend dies, to follow through on “The Plan” they had made to go to Paris.
Recommendations for writing a can’t-put-down book: Make your protagonist funny, introspective or complicated—better yet, all three—as well as someone whom readers will immediately recognize and feel compassion for. That compassion has to hold up no matter how dubious the protagonist’s choices. For 29-year-old Amy Brodie, the decision to go to Paris is hardly questionable, but how she goes about it is. While her engineer husband is away on business, she sneaks away from their Phoenix home and boards a plane, intending to use cash she has stored away and to lie to her husband during daily phone calls. “Kat’s death, William’s wanting to start a family, the siren song of food—I traveled ten thousand miles…to get away from those things,” she says. Food, or the avoidance of it, controls every aspect of Amy’s life. She lives by a set of dieting rules. Rule No.11: “abstention is easier than moderation”; rule No.25: “feast your eyes first.” Of course, Paris isn’t exactly the best place to avoid carbs; neither is it a great place to avoid self-awareness. The Plan doesn’t go quite according to itself, and before long, Amy is trekking through Paris’ underground with a ragtag team of Frenchmen and sampling buttery croissants. Although Burns excels at the “rules” of good writing, her well-crafted novel is too moving to be formulaic. Amy’s struggle through her grief is touching, as is her feeling of being trapped. “Being demoted from independent working woman to dependent unemployed spouse can freak out a person” she says. “I want to get away from this life that has somehow become my life.” Her attempt to escape never stops being an absorbing adventure—not until the gratifying final moments, when we find out whether she succeeds.
A lovely ode to Paris, friendship, spontaneity and forks—both on the plate and in the road.”
And, just recently, a new review, this one from Midwest Book Review.
It’s not a diet plan per say and it has little to do with nonfiction but Rules for the Perpetual Diet is a novel covering ten days in the life of a diet-obsessed twenty-something woman who perpetually struggles with weight gain and loss. Sound familiar? Well, don’t get too comfortable: the familiar is about to be turned upside down as Amy’s opening line snags attention: “Kat is dead. I am not. What I am is hungry. And majorly pissed off…”
In a few lines Burns has captured what all too few novels manage to grab: reader attention. And that attention continues as Amy plans a trip to France in an effort to avoid thinking about food (really??) and finds herself in a new world both strange and familiar at the same time.
Rules for the Perpetual Diet is replete with humor: “I had thrown the tea and the muffin into the trash can and now – how is it possible to want food at such a time? – I could eat a cow, an elephant, a house, the planet.”
It’s also replete with the culture of France, the agonies and connections of family and relationships, and one feisty woman’s interactions with life: “If I were here with William I wouldn’t have got my purse stolen. I wouldn’t have barfed up my breakfast in the street in front of the Cafe de la Poste. I wouldn’t have been stalked by the Sacre-Coeur biker jacket guy. But I wouldn’t have met Margaret either. I wouldn’t be sitting here, inside a real French apartment, the guest of a real Parisian resident, digesting oysters and slugging back Montrachet in the middle of the day.”
As readers move through the story, one surprising facet is uncovered: its ability to subtly but insistently insert the elements of a diet plan and insights into self-image, motivation, and food obsession within the course of a winning story of Amy’s struggles.
Threads of humor make for wry observations and fun moments that take serious encounters and turn them on end: “…news flash – you can’t lock self-storage lockers from the inside. This is probably the first thing that people who try to live in them learn. I experimented with jamming the mechanism with a toothbrush but it didn’t seem secure, and neither did a shoe, and neither did a two-pound sack of elbow macaroni, so I ended up moving the entire collection of boxes. Then I sat down and waited for morning, staring at my protective wall of food. I will donate it all to some worthy charity soon. Or, better yet, throw it out. Why should people who need to take charity have to eat crap?”
The story is about food and obsession – but it’s also about Amy’s discovery of her self outside of food, love, and life’s slings and arrows. It’s about her breakthroughs of what she needs in life and what she needs to lose – physically and figuratively. And, ultimately, it’s about baggage and change. Woven within the story of her personal revelations is – yes – insights on diets, how they work, and why they don’t.
Any female reader struggling to understand rules of engagement and dieting will welcome this unusual blend of a fictional story, a feisty, believable protagonist’s journeys, and the underlying purpose and realities of dieting and weight loss that all combine to make for a fun, vigorous read.
*P.S. Both these reviews were written when The Paris Effect was entitled Rules for the Perpetual Diet.