The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman (Ballantine Books; 272 pages; $15).
From Ellen Sussman, the bestselling author of French Lessons, comes a riveting and poignant novel of one woman’s journey across the world in search of love, renewal, and a place to call home.
“And you?” the man asks. ”What takes you to Bali”
The plane breaks through the cloud and there it is–an island full of dense jungles, terraced rice paddies, and glorious beaches. Jamie flinches as if someone’s laid a fist into her heart.
“Vacation?” her seatmate asks when she doesn’t answer.
“Yes,” she lies. ”Vacation.”
He’s already told her about his silent meditation retreat, how he can’t wait, how he needs to unwind, and she thinks: Start now. She curses herself for talking to him in the first place. It was the second scotch that loosened her tongue and made her break her rule: no chats on airplanes. You can’t escape.
“All by yourself?” he asks.
Jamie turns toward him. ”There’s an event,” she says. ”I was invited to attend.” She absentmindedly runs her finger against the long, thin scar at the side of her face and then buries her hand in her lap.
“A wedding?” he asks eagerly. He’s already told her about his wonderful Australian fiancee who will meet him at the retreat in Ubud.
“No,” Jamie says. Her mind’s a muddle of thoughts now. There’s no reason to tell him anything. And yet she’s been telling the world: I’m going back to Bali.
It starts as a trip to paradise. Sent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an American adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island’s lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. Yet three days after her arrival, she is caught in Bali’s infamous nightclub bombings, which irreparably change her life and leave her with many unanswered questions.
One year later, haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Most of all, she hopes to find Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks. She hasn’t been able to forget his kindness–or the spark between them as he helped her heal. Checking into a cozy guest house for her stay, Jamie meets the gracious owner, who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who improbably becomes crucial to her search. Jamie has never shied away from a challenge, but a second chance with Gabe presents her with the biggest dilemma of all: whether she’s ready to open her heart.
Ellen Sussman is the author of three national bestselling novels: The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons and On a Night Like This. All three books have been translated into many languages and French Lessons has been optioned by Unique Features to be made into a movie. Ellen is also theeditor of two critically acclaimed anthologies, Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia Of Sex and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave. She was named a San Francisco Library Laureate in 2004 and in 2009. Ellen has been awarded fellowships from The Sewanee Writers Conference, The Napoule Art Foundation, Brush Creek, Ledig House, Ucross, Ragdale Foundation, Writers at Work, Wesleyan Writers Conference and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has taught at Pepperdine, UCLA and Rutgers University. Ellen now teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes out of her home. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ellen was born in Trenton, NJ and has lived in Boston, Philly, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Paris and Northern California. She has worked lots of jobs including tennis instructor, restaurant manager, and college teacher but through all the transmutations of her life she has been writing, since the age of six, stubbornly, persistently, with great cockiness and wild insecurity, through praise and piles of rejection letters. She has given up her writing career many times, but only for a day or two, and her family has now learned to ignore her new career choices. She is a writer, an almost daily writer, a writer who actually loves to write.
Jamie is one of the most courageous and inspiring characters who I have ever come across. Setting may drive Sussman’s deeply affecting story, but Jamie is an unforgettable narrator. In the midst of reading The Paradise Guest House, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Such a horrific act reminded me of the Bali nightclub bombings. Although Sussman’s tale is fictional, the novel shows us that, even in the midst of tragedy and heartache, there is still life to live and love to share. This lush, atmospheric novel is perfect for fans of Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love.
I am offering a very special giveaway: a brand new, signed copy of The Paradise Guest House. Giveaway ends Friday, April 19, at 5 pm ET. Open to US residents only. Please fill out the brief form below.