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Unhappy cutting hair, Guillaume, the barber of the tiny, declining French town of Amour-sur-Belle, renames his shop Heart's Desire and tries his hand at matchmaking, even though he lost his first love, Emilie, years ago. Guillaume soon proves hopeless: he can't even help his best friend, Yves Leveque, whose heartaches have actually caused him indigestion. When Emilie returns to Amour-sur-Belle a rich divorcée, and sets about restoring a dilapidated old chateau that once brought tourists to the city, she enlivens the slumping town's eligible suitors and the town wags who watch their every move. Debut novelist Stuart infects Amour-sur-Belle's byzantine lore with whimsy (a mini-tornado that made the town pharmacist disappear), the usual beefs (an age-old feud, which began with Guillaume's mother) and sensual detail. It's all done well enough, but a reliance on magical-realist elements to resolve the town's spiraling affairs makes for an unsatisfying resolution. (Aug.)
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Grade 4–6—An impressive and poignant debut novel. Eleven-year-old Zoe dreams of giving piano recitals at Carnegie Hall. When her father purchases a Perfectone D-60, though, she must settle for the sounds of the organ rather than the distinguished sounds of a baby grand. Her organ teacher, Mabelline Person, notices the child's small talent for music and recommends her for the "Perfectone Perform-O-Rama"; she will play Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans." Accepting this new twist to her ambitions, Zoe must depend on a quirky support system: her father, who gets anxious when he leaves the house and who earns diplomas from Living Room University; her workaholic mother; and her classmate Wheeler, who follows Zoe home from school daily to spend time with her father, baking. Playing television theme songs from the '60s and '70s rather than Bach doesn't get Zoe down. Instead, aware of the stark difference between her dream and her reality, she forges ahead and, as an underdog, faces the uncertainty of entering the competition. In the end, resilient and resourceful Zoe finds perfection in the most imperfect and unique situations, and she shines. The refreshing writing is full of pearls of wisdom, and readers will relate to this fully developed character. The sensitive story is filled with hope and humor. It has a feel-good quality and a subtle message about how doing one's best and believing in oneself are what really matter.—Jennifer Cogan, Bucks County Free Library, Doylestown, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.