Road to Paradise: A Novel by Paullina Simons (William Morrow Paperbacks, $16.99, 544 pages)
“The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense…” Bob Dylan
In Paullina Simon’s Road to Paradise, Shelby Sloane takes off for the West Coast in a yellow Mustang in search of her mother. She embarks on this journey following her high school graduation with the expectation that she will return to the East Coast to attend college in the fall. Fallacy number one: This girl could not possibly be accepted into college.
Her friend, Gina, accompanies her to help defray the costs and meet up with her boyfriend, and they pick up a hitchhiker by the name of… Candy Cane (AKA, Grace Rio). The journey begins with a detour to deliver dogs to a relative. They meet Candy, whose purpose for the trip is revealed about two-thirds of the way through the novel. So, they are all on a quest of some kind or another. [Fascinating! -Ed.] In the meantime we learn that Candy is famous on I-80 for engaging in the oldest profession in the book.
Simmons’ narrative jumps around in the beginning as she attempts to be overly clever. This creates challenges for the reader. Quite frankly, by the time the reader is 100 pages in – where some clarity finally rears its head, it is impossible to care. The book mercifully and thankfully ends after 530 pages. Is there an editor in the house?
The main action of the story takes place in 1981, so throughout the book there are references to late 70s songs that are playing on the radio for no apparent reason.
There is mindless and aimless philosophical, historical and religious conversation among the three traveling characters. In addition to prostitution, we get porn, a visit to a monastery, an individual who develops a sudden and inexplicable gambling addiction, a “somewhat pseudo-lesbian” incident, and contrived loyalty. There’s also a patched-on happy ending as Shelby arrives in Mendocino, California and miraculously meets the man she will marry. Right, just like in real life.
If all this sounds interesting to you, be my guest. It’s quite doubtful that I will be reading the next release from Ms. Simons.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Dave Moyer is a public school administrator and is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.