A Heartfelt Story of Family and Self-Discovery
In this debut novel by Lauren Parvizi, La Vie, According to Rose: A Novel, we meet Rose Zadeh, a “quiet” protagonist who, in the opening pages of the book, is recording airplane fares to Paris in a notebook. “The notebook had become sacred, a place to go when work and family and memories of Dad were both too much and too little, proof that escape was a plane ride away.” Rose, simply put, is suffocating. She passes through life in this weird dichotomy of being under constant demand and scrutiny from others yet woefully unacknowledged.
Each Sunday, she meets with her mother and two younger sisters for brunch, a tradition they’ve held since the death of Rose’s father to pancreatic cancer years before. They order the same menu items each time and then fall into predictable conversation. If the trio is not talking about Rose’s sister’s upcoming wedding, they are making off-handed comments about Rose’s lack of a love life or empty apartment. Roses’s mother insists that she come to live with her because, at 32-years-old and still single, what else could be more important than taking care of your lonely mother? Rose finds herself either tuning out completely or keeping herself from bursting at the seams in frustration: “I stirred my coffee, willing the minutes to pass faster. Death by a thousand brunches. Nothing reminds you you’re painfully alone like other people discussing how alone you are as if you aren’t in the room.”
Rose gets her wish for an adventure when she is passed over for a promotion at her job as a marketing content writer and then forced to take three weeks of paid vacation. She decides to pursue her dream and books a flight to Paris. She is ready for her very own “trip of a lifetime.” Throughout the story, Rose imagines that she is writing to her favorite advice columnist, Your Grrl Gladys. When she is ready to board her plane to France, Rose says: “I’m happy, Gladys, or at least I would be if I weren’t so worried. About hurting my family and sucking at my job, and oh, you know, failing at the one chance I may ever have to be someone else. How can you tell the difference between anxiety and excitement?”
I could feel Rose’s desperate desire for “a chance” — even if she doesn’t know what that looks like yet. And she does find quite a few chances in Paris: chance encounters, a chance to let loose, giving love a chance, and a chance to speak her mind.
I developed a love-hate relationship with most of the secondary characters in this story; notably Rose’s sisters and mother. I cared about Rose as a character enough to feel her frustration or annoyance with being ignored or taken advantage of by each of them in turn. However, Parvizi also did a wonderful job shaping this family with tenderness and, as a reader, I was reminded just how grief sits differently with each of us. Rose’s memories of her father are beautiful and complicated, just like her relationship with her mother and sisters. I want to quote the entire last chapter of the book just to show you the depth of reconciliation that Parvizi is able to weave into the ending, but I’ll settle instead for this little heart-wrenching nugget:
I considered us gathered in Mom’s living room, Lily and Iris fighting over the tahdig, Mom forcing another heaping scoop of ghormeh sabzi on Ben’s father’s plate, Ben’s mother marveling at the unexpected flavors, and I ached for Dad.
Forgive me, I thought. And I knew he would. Because my body was there, but my heart was one foot out the door. I deserved my own story. I couldn’t have made it this far without him, but I had to do this next part, wherever it might lead, by myself.
I highly recommend this heartfelt debut novel by Lauren Parvizi.
Celeste is a woman who is unwavering about certain things in life; three of those being books, cats, and cold brew coffee. If she can enjoy all three at the same time, it’s going to be a good day. Her favorite genres are fantasy or sci-fi romance, historical romance, and historical fiction but every few books she likes to mix it up with contemporary fiction, a good psychological thriller, or an inspiring memoir. She has a busy schedule working full-time for an online university but she makes sure to unwind each day with stories, either by reading to her elementary school-aged daughter or tucking herself in bed with her Kindle or the latest book she picked up at a local book store.