Why: Road to Paradise by Paullina Simons piqued my interest because my friends and I took a road trip the summer after high school, just as Shelby sets out to do. (Shout out to our fearless LQ Leader, Joli for sitting in the backseat the entire trip!) The novel’s addition of a mysterious hitchhiker provided an element of intrigue I am glad we didn’t run in to on our trip! And yes. This is technically historical fiction, but only set within the last 60 years so I’m kind of branching out, right?
The radius of my life up to this point had been only a few miles, and I was terrified by what lay beyond my open window, its deep and abiding mystery.
The Story: Shelby Sloane is surprised with the extravagant gift of a Shelby Mustang car upon her high school graduation, and decides she needs to drive across the country to attempt to find her estranged mother. A planner by nature, Shelby finds herself unexpectedly convinced to allow her former friend Gina to accompany her. The duo encounters all sort of hiccups as they set out, and then fate brings them across of the path of a young, female hitchhiker named Candy. Despite adamant protests from Gina, Shelby feels compelled to help Candy, and the girls are pulled into a world much darker than they have ever known. Shelby’s carefully laid out plans are thrown out the window as Candy turns the girls’ lives upside down.
“You will learn, Shelby Sloane,” said Candy Cane, our resident philosopher, “that sometimes you have to gamble everything to win everything.”
Opinion: I am glad I chose to read this book, but it was hard for me to get through. I only say this because I related strongly to Shelby and could feel her stress as if it were my own! I enjoyed Simons’ writing style, although I am very undecided on the work as a whole. While I did not DISlike the book, and I think it was just a heavier read than I was anticipating. Were I to go back and read it with different expectations and at a less stressful time of year, I think I would not only enjoy the book more, but I would also appreciate the layers that Simons has infused throughout.
Something happens to you on the road. Something happened to me. You’re driving, humming, looking around, or you’re tense and fretting, chewing your nails on the hand that’s not clutching the wheel, you’re arguing and dreaming. Meantime, the fields, the trees, the farms are passing by.
Recommendation: This book checks a lot of boxes. It has elements of “coming of age” novel, juicy beach read, and intriguing mystery. As noted above, I think readers need to be prepared for a more in-depth book than they might be expecting. To me, this book deserves to be appreciated and dissected much more thoroughly than I allotted for. While not unenjoyable for others, the ideal reader to me is someone who is engaged with the text and relishes having to think while reading. The plot alone will provide an “entertaining read,” but Simons has gifted us much more than that!
You cannot save your life until you lose it utterly.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)
- What year is Shelby’s car? How is the car similar to its owner? How does it differ?
- What was your first car? What made it special? How did you feel getting behind the wheel of that vehicle?
- What role does religion play in this story?
- Describe the gambling theme that Simons develops. How many different “types” of gambling can you think of?
- I mentioned that I related well to Shelby’s character in this novel. Who do you most resemble from the cast of characters and why?
- The last quote above is from the epilogue of the book. Do you agree with Shelby’s assessment? Would you have changed the ending of the book? If so, how?
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book!