Cover Image: Paris, California

Paris, California

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Member Reviews

Interesting story about a small town that is changing and how one resident feels about it.  Ashin is a great main character.  The town probably feels like most small towns nowadays when people come in and change everything they liked about the town in the first place.
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Paris, California isn't an easy book for me to review. Some characters felt exaggerated and the quick pace of events happening in just one summer vacation didn't convince me. However, I still found value in the story.

Ashin, a retired dentist and widower, battles diabetes by taking long walks. One day, Mateo and his family move into the house next door to Ashin. Mateo starts joining Ashin on his walks, initially to explore the town, but soon out of habit. Together, they witness the community of Paris, California being destroyed by newcomers who quickly buy up properties, build high fences around them, and put up signs all over the place. 

I enjoyed the relationship between Ashin and Mateo, but the fast pace of change and the dramatic ending left me uncertain.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review. These opinions are solely mine.
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This started off as a rather sad, quiet book as retired, widowed dentist Ashin, befriends his new young neighbour, Mateo.
New people start to move in to Paris California, because it's such a laidback place to be, but then start to change it into the image of where they came from, restricting access to the beach, putting up fences etc. The book then becomes a social commentary.  So far, so good, but then it all suddenly gets a bit weird towards the end, with one of the MCs acting totalling out of character, with no foreshadowing of what is to come.  

I think that this spoiled to overall tone of the book, so 3 stars from me.
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Ashin is a retired dentist whose small town he's lived in his whole life is becoming unrecognisable. Outsiders are desperate to buy property in the area, and the community creates bizarre rules that completely change its way of living.

Unfortunately, I didn't like this book. It's mainly a series of unconvincing dialogues between Ashin and his new twelve-year-old neighbor Mateo where they reflect on the way people act and why. The writing is very literal and unnatural and Mateo speaks like an adult in a child's body. The plot had a lot of potential but for the most part it felt like what I was curious about just wasn't addressed and instead I got more philosophical exchanges between the two characters.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Paris California
Kevin St. Jarre
Encircle Publications  May 2023

This was a very disappointing novel.  What can ruin a book is when a writer has a point to make that supersedes all the elements that can give a book depth and interest.  While I have no issue with the premise and political points St. Jarre was making, the longwinded speeches  and rush of destructive events did not serve the interest of the story.

Paris California is a small coastal town. There had been little change there for years. As in many small towns, Paris's mom and pop stores slowly went out of business.  However, the longterm residents were content, the beach was open to everyone, children played freely, the old carousel building was at its heart, and it had the friendly feel of small town America. 

Paris is suddenly overcome by the rush of new wealthy residents willing to pay extraordinary amounts for the old houses. They want to change the character of the town by restricting freedom and the way of life that may have drawn them there in the first place.

At the center of the book is the relationship between an older, retired resident and a boy who has just moved in. Ashin Asilomar, a recently widowed, retired dentist, has a very mild personality and is content with his shrinking life as it is now.  The boy, Matteo, is a lonely, recent transplant from Texas, with parents who let him be. His mother is the breadwinner. She can work from anywhere as a computer analyst who creates algorithms; his father is a former journalist who rages about what the world has become.

In the short time since Matteo has arrived, most of the houses have been sold to out of towners displacing the old residents who can no longer afford to live there, fences have cut off the beach, dogs are no longer allowed out of their yards, proposed new businesses and building further attempt to ruin the town.  The town council is, not surprisingly, ineffectual.

The characters are one dimensional which is a pity because there was much possibility. The obstructionists seem to be place holders, some farcical,  as a way to forward the book’s agenda. The crazy men cutting off the beach, the woman who threatens law suits to put her restrictive ideas in place,  and the shallowness of the  new owners could have potentially been developed. But, they remained stick figures.

While the relationship between Ashin and Matteo was needed to push the story forward, the dialogue between them felt stilted and untrue.

I think this writer has some good ideas that could make an interesting story if he set his soapbox aside and created people we cared about.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Encircle Publications for the opportunity to read this advanced reading copy.
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I love novels that observe human behavior through a high magnification lens, especially when you don’t know you’re looking through one. Paris, California is one of those books that reminds us how small, seemingly benign actions can add up to catastrophe, and how we often don’t see it coming. The story is about ordinary people whose lives are turned upside down by outsiders who try to transform their dreamy town into a utopia—with tragic consequences. It’s a cautionary tale with a warmth and humility to it, thanks to Kevin St. Jarre’s insight and strong, natural writing. His characters are alive with flaws, and they get under your skin with their humorous observations and simmering grudges. Paris feels like a town you’ve lived in, where the rules and regulations are familiar, sometimes absurd, and the big players are followers, making it up as they go along. St. Jarre has written a poignant novel that successfully bridges the gap between drama and satire.
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This was a heavenly read, deliciously funny and full of relatable things that we all see now as we get older.

A book suitable for anyone who has lived somewhere that has started to change.
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Entertaining satire. It may not be high literature, but this is a fun read, which reflects back some issue and flaws of society along with some humor. 

Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!
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This delightful book about a retired dentist and his young friend who live in a small town in California is a sad commentary on urban sprawl. For decades, the town of Paris, CA has had an old-time feeling; generally, very little has changed until we get a little way into the story when, suddenly, it seems, the little town is transformed into not just a suburb, but a bustling metropolis where giant buildings and homes appear to spring up overnight, much to the dismay of our protagonists.

And, of course, new housing developments come with a whole host of problems not previously encountered, like dwindling public beach access and fences, each one higher and more fortified than the next. The town begins to feel like a fortress, with property values skyrocketing and original residents fleeing with over a million dollars in their pockets, but there is nowhere, even with that much cash, that they can afford to live.

The book is wickedly funny, very well written, and, while some of the players are caricatures, all of them are well developed. And, as I said earlier, it’s actually very sad to see things changing so rapidly that you don’t even recognize where you have lived for decades, something that happens all too often in our craving for more society.

Read this book and enjoy the story alone. Or read this story and see if you can relate to the conundrum of rapid change.

Highly recommended.

I look forward to reading more by this author.

I received this book as an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
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The story opens simply with Ashin, a kind-hearted retired dentist and widower, living in an idyllic, sun-splashed, coastal neighborhood. Do not be fooled. This provocative story examines our need for control when it bumps up against our perceived helplessness. When a new family moves next door to Ashin, he befriends their intelligent and curious twelve year-old. Young Mateo is an intriguing character, a foil to the methodical Ashin. Soon, Ashin becomes more concerned with the changes around him as he sees the town through Mateo’s eyes during their daily walks to the park or beach, aware of newly erected fences, a multitude of silly rules and no-trespassing signs. He also has concerns about Mateo after hearing fierce arguments between his mother and paranoid father. Ashin is unsure how to affect any meaningful change in the boy’s life, or in the disturbing world around them. As the beautiful town succumbs to fears, conspiracies, and the vocal minority who disrupt town council meetings, what will Ashin do when an impressionable Mateo takes matters into his own hands? What can any of us do?
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Paris, California
by Kevin St. Jarre
Ashin Asilomar is a retired dentist, living in the same California mid-coastal town where he was raised, practiced, married, and widowed. A troubled young family moves in next door, and Ashin befriends their 12-year-old son, Mateo Funk. Together, Ashin and Mateo watch as more and more outsiders move in, calling the town perfect just as it is… And then working so very hard to transform Paris into the place they recently escaped. It begins with fences, signs, and dog leashes, but soon progresses to hostility, absurdity, and then madness.
Paris, California tells a tale familiar to many people who have watched their community transformed—by those who move in and then work to change the very characteristics that attracted them there in the first place—and what happens when that phenomenon goes completely off the rails.
Another great read in February, Ashin Asilomar befriend a troubled Mateo a 12-year-old from a very troubled family next door. It is a very striking book. Paris, California is what so many places are becoming. Neighbors against neighbors, unaccepting and narrow-minded. It reminds me of my own town. Signs, signs..everywhere a sign. Yet the retired Ashin and Mateo cannot just look away. I love the way they both found someone to hold onto as every wrong, every rule brings them to trust.
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