Seven Letters from Paris

By Samantha Vérant. (Sourcebooks, 254 pages, $14.99.)

Samantha Vérant didn't have much going for her. Laid off from her job, miserable in her marriage, deep in debt. What she did have was a best friend and seven love letters from a guy she'd had one hot date with. In France. Twenty years ago.

You can see where this is going. But "Seven Letters From Paris" is not a novel. It's a memoir, and what follows is a true love story that rivals any rom com. Goaded into action by her friend, Samantha digs out the letters, turns to the Internet and tracks down Jean-Luc, now a rocket scientist in Toulouse, with two children and his own failing marriage. She e-mails him, he e-mails back and — voilà! — the flame is rekindled.

Part travelogue, part love story, Vérant's memoir will remind readers of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." But where Gilbert's quest to reclaim herself eventually led to love, Vérant's is a search to reclaim love that leads to self-discovery. The drama tends to fade as the happiness increases, but readers probably will not begrudge that in exchange for the chance to travel along and reflect on their own lives' crossroads.

Maureen McCarthy

Topics team leader


By Alina Bronsky; translated from the German by Tim Mohr. (Europa Editions, 240 pages, $16 paperback.)

Young Berlin writer Alina Bronsky has drawn readers worldwide with her first two books, "Broken Glass Park" and "The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine." "Just Call Me Superhero" is another quick, sweet read with great characters and deep poignancy lurking inside a comic drama.

Teenager Marek has become bitter and withdrawn since an attack by a Rottweiler grossly disfigured his face. When his mother tricks him into going to a support group run by an older man called only "the guru" for misfit teens, he is furious and almost drops out, but sticks with it out of curiosity and a growing affection for the other members, especially for Janne, a pretty but immature girl in a wheelchair.

During a group retreat, Marek receives some grim news from his mother and has to leave early, and events poignant and madcap follow. The book's title doesn't make much sense, and a plot twist at the end is irritatingly implausible, but the deft dialogue and subtle character development — Marek reaches a hard-won realization that people are "more than their shells" — more than offset those flaws to make this slight novel a small treasure. Especially recommended for mature teenagers.


West/North metro team leader