Liberating Paris is an exceptional first novel by Linda Bloodworth ThomasonThomason, who is a television writer and producer. Set in Paris, Arkansas, the novel revolves around the titular small town and a group of friends and family therein. Six best friends from childhood, now in their forties, are coming to terms with changes in their hometown as well as in their lives. Woodrow “Wood” McIlmore is the golden boy of Paris, a football star in his youth and now the local gynecologist. His wife, Milan, is his high-school sweetheart, and together the couple leads what appears to be the perfect life, complete with two children, Elizabeth and Charlie. However, lives are turned upside down when Elizabeth, home from college, announces that she has met the love of her life and is getting married. It turns out that Elizabeth is in love with Duff’s son. Duff is Wood’s lost love from his high school days when Wood was not with Milan.
Duff is now an IHOP waitress, and her “reunion” with Paris and its inhabitants after twenty years is a shock to this small, idyllic town (although the main street stores are closing up due to the new local Fed-Mart driving out the family-owned businesses). Wood and Duff proceed into forbidden territory, and the question quickly becomes whether their rediscovered passion is worth Wood’s marriage and shattering the future nuptials of Elizabeth and Duff’s son. Their affair affects more than just Milan – it affects Paris, Arkansas, itself as one of Wood’s friends glibly states, “See, it’s not just you having an affair. Now we’re all having an affair.”
There is a lot more happening in Liberating Paris than your run-of-the-mill fling with your old flame. While Wood and Duff are carrying on, there is a revelation of sexual identity, a birth, a death, a marriage, and the ever-strengthening Fed-Mart that seems to be taking over the town. The book has a wonderful Southern flair with an epic feel that is chockful of poignant and funny moments. The author does an excellent job of developing the characters, and she manages to delve into the lives of all the main characters without letting the book meander too much. There are several books out there about small towns, illicit love affairs and Southern life, but Thomason's Liberating Paris surpasses many other books with its touching characters, humor and page-turning plot. I highly recommend this book and eagerly await Thomason’s second novel.