The Only Way to Paradise by G.G. Vandagriff
O. W. Press, 2011
Amazon Purchase Link
Reviewed by Heather Moore
Author G.G. Vandagriff returns to women’s fiction with a flourish by the release of her new series, The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood (2011). With several notable and award-winning works credited to Vandagriff’s name, readers will relish this first volume, as they escape alongside the characters and indulge in all things Italian. Every writer would love to travel to the destination of their novel, and G.G. has done just that, enabling her to integrate the hum of Italian life as few others have. Spending months in Florence over a period of a couple of years, she crafted The Only Way to Paradise, a thought-provoking novel that follows four women as they try to make sense of their failing group therapy.
Each of the four women has their own dark valley to cross, but they have one thing in common—their therapy group has become toxic in more ways than one. Dissatisfied with the non-results, they band together in an unprecedented move, and decide to travel to Florence together. Using Enchanted April as inspiration, Roxie asks her friends, “If Italy is so healing and therapeutic what are we doing in Ohio?”
Mother-figure, Georgia, embraces the idea and encourages the women to seek solace in Florence—to lose themselves in all things Florence—in order to discover what path to take in each of their twisting lives.
Florence might seem the ideal location for any woman to rejuvenate her soul, but some of the women have haunting ties connected to the vibrant city. Reservations have to be overcome as the four women form endearing friendships, serendipitously calling themselves, “The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood.”
Georgia fights her own battles as she reminisces about the recent passing of her husband until she reunites with a man from the past who wants to fill the corners of her future.
MacKenzie might be viewed as running from her two rebellious teenagers and failed marriage, but in truth, she is faced head on with all that she has neglected as both wife and mother.
Sara, a woman who gave up her most precious talents to follow the path her parents set, discovers that love might be a possibility for her after all.
And Roxie, emboldened by the vivacious culture surrounding her, finally lets down her guard, only to be funneled back in to the nightmares of her childhood.
As each of these women immerse themselves in their own Italian Renaissance, their lives become intertwined with the local people, new loves, and fresh possibilities. True to her nature, Vandagriff has a way of weaving a story rich with details, emotion, and quotable prose that makes for an enriching read beyond the average novel.
The Only Way to Paradise is a deeply layered book with characters that will touch your life and stay with you long after you turn the final page.