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Likely Stories: All the Flowers in Paris by Sarah Jio

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

After a few intense stories, I turned my eyes to an interesting novel with some romance and some danger all wrapped up in a nifty story of two women who share a bizarre tale.  Sarah Jio’s ninth novel, All the Flowers in Paris will give you moments of pleasure while keeping you on edge. 

The story revolves around two women.  Caroline has survived a horrific automobile accident and woke to a complete loss of memory.  When she finally leaves the hospital, she is given the keys to a coveted apartment in Paris on the rue Cler, and one small room containing a man’s Hawaiian shirt and a box of unsent letters.  Sarah writes, “I open my eyes and blink away the most terrible dream.  There were sirens and lights.  There was blood.  A child.  I sit up in bed gasp for air.  Everything aches. // Where am I?  I notice a familiar monument out the window.  The Arc…de Triomphe?  And then it hits me. // Paris.  Good Lord, why am in Paris?  But the more pressing question is … Who am…I? (21).

The second woman was Céline, who lives with her father and her daughter, Cosi.  The year is about 1943, and the Nazis have overrun a large swath of the French countryside.  Céline and her half-Jewish father share a common French surname, so they believe they will survive the occupation.  Sarah writes, “Evil has seeped into Paris like a cancer.  And while there is strength in carrying on—sending your children to school in the morning, humming a tune on your bicycle, baking your bread, playing your piano, making your flower arrangements being home by curfew—it also feels false when lives are being ripped apart right before our very eyes (31).

Céline and Luc discuss the activities of the German Officers.  Sarah writes, “Before I can explain to Luc, the officer approaches our table.  Luc stands, the way French police officers do out of strained respect for the Germans.  ‘Good evening, monsieur.’ He says.  ‘I am sorry, have we met?’ // The officer smirks.  ‘No, but I’ve met your lady here,’ he says, staring at me like a very fine steak that has just been wheeled before him on a dome-covered plate. // Luc glanced at me, then back to the officer, confused. // ‘Oh yes, he, hello again,’ I say as calmly and politely as I can.  ‘Luc, I waited on this gentleman at the shop the other day’ // ‘You most certainly did,’ the officer says grinning.  He reaches for Luc’s half-drunk wine on the table.  ‘Mind if I have a taste?’ // He takes Luc’s silence as permission to take a sip. // ‘Very nice.’ He says, setting down the glass” (37). 

Sarah Jio’s novel All the Flowers in Paris is of two women struggling to make sense of the horrific days ahead of them.  This is another thread in a story played out in the nightmare that was the Third Reich.  5 Stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.