Hungry Woman in Paris: A Novel
Grand Central Publishing (2009)
Reviewed by Deb Shunamon for Reader Views (5/09)
Who has not wished that a great holiday would never end; wanting to put off a return to the work and problems of ordinary life for just a bit longer? In “Hungry Woman in Paris” by Josefina Lopez, Canela does just that, hoping that by staying on in Paris to avoid her obligations back home, she will be able to figure out herself and her life.
Although she considers herself a coward, this very spunky 30-year-old character calls off her wedding, uses her honeymoon ticket to run away to France, sabotages her blossoming journalism career, and enrolls in a famous cooking school despite her limited knowledge of French. The majority of the time Canela’s observations result in descriptions of Parisian life that are every bit as good as in any travel book. Metaphors and references to cuisine, such as her ex-fiance looking good on a menu but not a dish to be ordered for life, are delightful as well. When I did misunderstand this character’s thoughts or actions, it was generally because Canela and her family are Latinos, with cultural traits of their own that are as different for me as the Parisians’. However, the explicit details of Canela’s many sexual adventures are likely going to offend some readers, and I am not sure why quite so many are included. Canela’s willingness to try every- and anything is deliciously freeing, though.
Not recognizing that she is, indeed, her mother’s daughter, Canela continually tries to deal with some very serious demons all by herself. She is truly a troubled character despite her enjoyable adventures. A few times I had to restart the beginning of passages after first deliberately changing my state of mind, because the usual light-hearted mood of the story often abruptly switches to explore the disturbing results of Canela’s avoidance of her problems. However, this character’s need to understand and embrace the independent, intellectual parts of herself will speak to every female reader. “Hungry Woman in Paris” begins with a terrific introduction and has an even better ending, while the middle is pretty darn enjoyable too. Josefina Lopez’ novel is an all-round delightful, humorous, and insightful book that I highly recommend.