Grace is a accomplished luthier and shop-owner, who left her own musical success in her past. Once a wildly talented cello student, she was driven out of a prestigious music program when a professor told her she couldn’t hack it. Decades later, she is a thriving merchant, with her heart set on her relationship with David, a kind man who just happens to have a wife and children. Over the course of the novel, Grace must come to terms with her traumatic past, her rocky present, and the possibilities in her future. With an angsty, yet sincere, teenage prodigy (Nadia) and an older gentleman musician (Mr. Williams) by her side, she has to rediscover her independence and her self-worth and choose what she wants from the world after it changes irreversibly.
The book was really kind of fluffy and feel-good. Harris pulls a lot of emotional strings, an as a reader, I was very aware of what I was supposed to be feeling. I think this might just be a symptom of reading love stories and/or contemporary fiction nowadays. That said, I really found this book to be heartfelt and sincere.
The characters were quirky and flawed and complex, and they were really easy to enjoy even when they did disagreeable things. Take Grace, for instance: I don’t love the idea that she knowingly pursued a lengthy relationship with a married man, but neither does she. We can read her better for it. Harris’s characters are so tremendously human.
Grace’s journey of self-discovery is a powerful plot twist in itself. What looks like a story shaping up to be a romance never delivers, which is excellent because David is a jerk and Grace deserves better. Harris doesn’t overwhelm us with lovey-dovey platitudes or happy, romantic endings. Grace doesn’t get the man, but she gets everything else, and it’s so much more important.
The finer details of the backstories (Grace’s school experience, Nadia’s personal life) were well-detailed and compelling; they helped us understand the characters as we watched them and their decisions play out.
I was most impressed and appreciative of how Harris navigates the tricky waters of inviting non-musicians into a story that relies heavily on details of stringed instruments and symphonies, of maestros and motifs, on orchestras and overtures. Harris successfully invites us into this landscape, and rather than beating dead horses with endless explanations, she does a really swell job of welcoming us into the musical world. Her detailing is compassionate and considerate, as if we were students walking into Grace’s music shop.
Goodbye, Paris isn’t a grand romance, an epic journey, or a huge surprise. It’s easy to chart where Harris is going with her story, and where she wants to take us along with it. Still, I found myself falling for all of the feel-good tricks. I deeply enjoyed the characters, even when I wanted to shout at them. I loved the story, even when I could see where it was going. It was an impressively organized debut from Antsey Harris, and I really look forward to seeing what comes from this author down the line.