Armchair travelers rejoice! Kate Klise has penned a funny, light and speedy read transporting readers through Madrid and Paris with two love stories entertaining enough for me to devour the whole thing on a three-hour train ride. And I have no regrets.
“A successful chef and single mother, Daisy Sprinkle is on vacation with her teenage daughter, Coco, who picks up the wrong duffle bag at the airport. That situation is not improved by the note Daisy finds tucked into her carry-on, apparently from the man in 13-C. Daisy is in no mood for secret admirer notes or dinner dates. Or even men, for that matter.
“Andrew doesn’t know what possessed him to do something like that. Hitting on strange women on airplanes is definitely not his typical style. But there was something about the woman in 6-B that could not be ignored. Of course, now he has no time to think about her, since his son Webb seems to have made off with a budding fashionista’s luggage.
“Determined to make the best of a bad situation, Daisy cooks up a plan to calm her daughter’s panic over the lost bag with a week of fabulous food, shopping, and museum hopping. Andrew is busy working on his latest project and hoping Webb finds enough to entertain himself. Little do they know the teens are making their own plan. . . one that will ultimately reunite Ms. 6-B and Mr. 13-C.” (Goodreads)
If In The Bag sounds like a kooky novel relying on uncanny coincidences to further the plot, you’re right — and I liked it. Though far from unpredictable, it’s easy to see how fate plays a role in joining together four people; the whole novel has a sort of “Sleepless In Seattle” feel to it. You know what I mean? Like everything is destined to work out, but only the audience can see it. And we’re along for the ride.
Good thing I love “Sleepless In Seattle.”
Though Coco’s typical-teenage-character whining (“Mooooom! You’re ruining my life!“) nonsense took a while to stomach, I eventually took a shine to her. Both Coco and Daisy are struggling to sort out their roles in the mother-daughter dynamic, especially as Coco gets older and prepares for college. Their trip to Paris is supposed to be a chance to reconnect and recharge their batteries, especially for Daisy, but nothing seems to be going their way.
After a luggage mix-up, they’re linked to Andrew and Webb, a handsome father-son pair, and it’s not complicated to see that Teen Girl A will feel a spark with Teen Boy B. Communicating exclusively through email, In The Bag focuses often on the role of digital courtship versus the more traditional ways of getting to know someone (like, you know, in person). Daisy is wary of technology while Andrew embraces it; Coco and Webb are, of course, glued to whatever Internet cafe they can find abroad. I liked the explorations of “modern” courtship — they made sense, and Klise wasn’t heavy-handed about it. The whole “OMG people don’t really talk anymore” overtures popping up in contemporary fiction are getting stale.
Those who love a side of scenery, French food and wicked descriptions of Europe with their love stories will definitely find plenty to enjoy in In The Bag. Flipping between sunny Madrid and romantic Paris, it’s the sort of novel that will have you wanting to pack a bag immediately. (Just hope it doesn’t get lost.) Though I got more of a sense of France than Spain, that’s probably because Webb spent his time in Madrid talking to Coco in Paris — so we see less of the city through his eyes. Still, the travel aspects were fun, and I enjoyed the “Americans abroad” perspective.
In The Bag definitely has crossover appeal. Adult readers and chick lit lovers will relate to the harried-parents-doing-the-best-they-can relationship between Andrew and Daisy; teens have plenty to get their blood pumpin’ regarding the sweet but flirtatious evolution of Webb and Coco’s emails. By the time the pair meet face-to-face, I was grinning — I mean, who wouldn’t root for those crazy kids? And when things don’t go exactly as planned, I could sympathize. For as much as I had to suspend disbelief at points, Coco and Webb’s meeting was painfully realistic.
Though I sometimes get twitchy about labeling something a “summer read” (it can just seem dismissive), that’s exactly how I would describe In The Bag: light-hearted fiction that can be easily consumed while working on a tan. It doesn’t demand too much of you. It can be read in chunks and set aside for days or gobbled up all at once; either way, it doesn’t lose its charm. It’s fun and frothy. And that cover is too cute.
3.5 out of 5!