by Paullina Simons
Paperback: 640 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 24, 2015)
Falling in love was the easy part . . .
Chloe and her three best friends are weeks away from finishing high school and beginning their new grown-up lives apart from one another. They have been friends since they were kids, their families and lives intertwined, but this is their last summer together. They plan a magical trip to sun-drenched Barcelona, with its possibility of adventure and passion. But first, Chloe has an old family promise to keep, and the four of them must detour through historic Eastern Europe.
In this fledgling post-Communist world, Chloe meets a mysterious American vagabond named Johnny, who carries a guitar, an easy smile, and a lifetime of secrets. From Treblinka to Trieste, from Carnikava to Krakow, the unlikely band of friends and mismatched lovers traverses the Old World on a train ride that becomes a treacherous journey into Europe’s and Johnny’s dark pasts—a journey that jeopardizes Chloe’s plans and all she ever thought she wanted. The ties that bind Chloe to her friends and her future are about to be put to the ultimate test. Whether or not they reach Barcelona . . . their lives will never be the same again.
A sweeping, beautiful tale of old friendships and new love that mesmerizes and enchants, Lone Star will linger long in the memory even after the final page has been turned.
“Is that what they called karma? Or was it simply what happened next?”
“Chloe didn’t know where to start. That she didn’t know how to start was more vital.”
“She had kept her dreams deliberately small, thinking they might be easier to realize, but now feared she hadn’t kept them small enough.”
“There was something about Johnny Rainbow that pierced her heart with both sorrow and gladness, cut apart the place which all of herself came from.”
“How do the rest of us stay so wrapped up in our own heads and lives and hearts and problems that we don’t see what’s a breath away from us?”
“She can barely remember what he looks like, but she cannot forget what she felt like when she looked at him.”
When I signed on and even started reading the impressive tome of Lone Star, I expected to be reading about people living in or from Texas. I was so very very wrong. Texas was on the only state the boy with the Lone Star tattoo claimed he had never traversed. So instead of Texas, we meet the character with the Lone Star tattoo in Europe, Latvia of all places. I must admit, before I picked up this book, what I knew of Latvia would be a shameful reflection of my public school education… nothing, I knew nothing. I know a considerable amount about it now, and I enjoyed the lesson and the journey, even though the travel for the characters was rather harrowing and tedious, terrifying, and exciting.
The plot being 4 new high school graduates/life-long friends/neighbors/now couples, embarked on a European adventure sponsored by one girl’s grandmother - with the provision that they visit grandmother’s relatives and seek out the areas and pay tribute to the death camps where her childhood friends were interred. Gruesome granny if you ask me, but she paid for the travel for the 4 broke teen-agers, so of course they agreed to her terms. Their travel was arduous due to the unreliable transit systems; their accommodations were generally unsavory and abominable (hostels); and their tempers and relationships were stressed and tested to the breaking point. They missed connections, they fought, they were robbed, stranded, fell in love, were heartbroken, and unearthed unforgivable betrayals. Secrets – everyone has them – but close quarters and stressful conditions tends to fray even nerves of steel and loosen the tongue – of course they imploded.
The story was long yet well-written and engrossing, and despite the youthful characters, I was never bored. Ms. Simon obviously well remembers the painful discomforts, self-consciousness, and insecurities of that age. Her writing is smart, observant, insightful, and thoughtful. I experienced a full range of deeply felt emotion as I read. I laughed aloud several times, I was thrilled and excited by their adventures and discoveries, but at other times my heart was squeezed and also broken, I was frequently anxious, and then just devastated, yet I thoroughly entertained throughout. Hours later I was still contemplating the complexity of the story, and a day later I continued to mull - unable to move on to another book and ruing the lack of an epilogue.
To boil down this long review – it was exquisite.