13 Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro

13 Rue Therese
By Elena Mauli Shapiro
288 pages, $23.99
Reagan Arthur Books, February 2, 2011

13 Rue Therese is a valentine to romance, lasting love and the art of the treasure hunt for the saved mementos that tell the stories of our lives.

I became aware of this book shortly after reading of the death of an elderly Parisian woman, and the discovery of her long abandoned apartment, a virtual time capsule of her life some seventy years ago. The two things had nothing to do with each other, except they were both about the bits of memories that make up our lives. My curiosity about 13 Rue Therese was peaked.

Elena Mauli Shapiro chose to tell the story of piano teacher Louise Brunet through the eyes of American professor Trevor Stratton.  Statton uncovers an old box of mementos and his life if changed by the old pressed flowers, letters, cards, dated photographs and random tidbits that we hang on to for memories’ sake. Trevor falls in love with the woman who treasured these pieces of a life remembered.

Shapiro brilliantly allows the reader to fall in love with Louise also, by showing us pictures of the actual items from the box. Each chapter is full of photos of documents, ink pens, a flowered handkerchief, a brooch, a rosary and the other wonderful things that draw the reader deeper into Louise’s story.

Ms. Shapiro’s website tells us that 13 Rue Therese is inspired by real life. She says:

 “When I was a little girl growing up in Paris in the early eighties, an old woman who lived a few floors up from my apartment died alone.  Her name was Louise Brunet.  None of her remaining relatives came to fetch her belongings, so the landlord had to clear them all out.  He let the other tenants in the building scavenge through her stuff and take home silverware, jewelry, whatever they wanted.  My mother salvaged a small box filled with mementos: old love letters from WWI, mesh church gloves, dried flowers, a rosary—many objects worth nothing but memories.  This box is the sepulcher of Louise Brunet’s heart.  As I have carried it through life and across the world, I have always intended to write a book out of it. 

I enjoyed this book very much, it’s richly told by someone who feels the emotions she so lovingly shares with the reader. The storyline is sadly heart breaking, sweet and somehow gritty at the same time.  Plot lines bring surprises both good and not so good, but always believable and poignant.

If I seem vague it’s because I hope I’ve given you just enough to want to read this book.

Another interesting addition is the use of little fleur-de-lis symbols for QR codes found in the back of the book. These will link readers to the book’s website  www.13ruetherese.com,
where they will discover special 3-D renderings of the images in the book, as well as reading group guides, exceprts, audio and video clips, and essays by the author.

I bet you fall in love with this book too.

If I gave a star rating, I'd give this one 4 out of 5 stars!

This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review. 

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