Monday, November 19, 2012

A Desire Path, Jan Shapin (3 stars)

About A Desire Path

• Paperback: 264 pages
• Publisher: Cambridge Books (July 7, 2012)

What makes women fall for men who are tied to political causes?

Set in the Depression and WW II’s aftermath, A Desire Path links a love affair between a married woman and a union organizer with the crisis a famous female journalist faces trying to decide whether to join the Communist Party. Two stories of conflicted loyalties, each a journey along a desire path.

Ilse is drawn to Andy because of his involvement in labor causes, even as Andy himself is struggling with a loss of belief. Anna Mae, Andy’s old friend, tries to balance her responsibility to a senile father with a growing sense her left wing politics have trapped her. After a disastrous encounter with Ilse’s husband, Andy retreats to the mountains. Anna Mae flails about — from Seattle to Moscow, Los Angeles to China — while Ilse gradually discovers her own inner compass.


This novel is based on three main characters' lives and how they constantly intertwine. Ilse, Andy, and Anna walk their own journeys with intersecting paths. Ilse is married but not in love until she meets Andy, and Anna is a friend to both of them and a journalist struggling with her own ideology. Set during a time where many feared Communism, their story is an intricate lesson in the politics of our past.

Broken into three parts, the book focuses first on Andy's story, then Anna's, and finally Ilse's. I found myself most drawn to Ilse--she was flawed but hopeful, wanting to find a way to put love over her choices. Her daughter, Helen, was another character that pulled on my heartstrings. Andy grew on me in his utter devotion to Ilse. He never gave up on her, even when she gave him no reason to hang on.

I wanted to like Anne, but I found that her character jumped all over the place. Unfortunately, the timeline of the story does that as well, so I often found myself confused and distracted from an otherwise interesting story. Readers who love historical fiction will find the intricate layout of the era quite fascinating, but I just wish I had more time with Ilse as the main character. Having to wait so long to finally get insight into her character was tough. In the end, I found myself wishing for an Andy and Isle story more than Anna's.

Still, I give kudos to the author for taking on more recent history and infusing it with an interesting and enduring love story. And I loved the idea of the desire path, that it's not a "shortcut--that implies convenience. Desire is rarely a convenience." Such a true statement, and one her characters discover. Life doesn't always hand us what we want in a beautifully wrapped gift.

What we all connect to in books can be mysterious and quite subjective, so I invite you to visit Jan's Shapin's website and read the first chapter of A Desire Path.

Rating: 3 stars

About Jan Shapin

Jan Shapin has been writing plays and screenplays for over twenty years. More recently she has turned her attention to fiction. She has studied playwriting at Catholic University in Washington, DC, screenwriting at the Film and Television Workshop and University of Southern California, and fiction writing at a variety of locations including Brown University, Barnard’s Writers on Writing seminar, Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She has two grown children and lives in Newport, RI with her husband, a photographer.

Learn more about Jan at her website,

Thanks to TLC Tours for my review copy.

Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.

Please visit other stops on the A Desire Path blog tour page.


Unknown said...

I also hated to wait so long to see what Ilse really felt about Andy. Anne Mae was based on a real person, maddening in real life. I tried to make her not likeable but, hopefully, understandable. As Ilse says at the end, “Anan Mae. Such an addled life. What can one do but admire it?” Thanks for your thoughtful review. -Jan Shapin, author of A Desire Path

Tia Bach said...

Jan, She definitely was understandable. I think I was so wrapped up in Ilse & Andy that I felt like she distracted me from them. ;-)

Thanks so much for stopping by.

I wish you much success with your novel!

Anonymous said...

"Desire is rarely a convenience" How true it is! Desire is often anything BUT convenient.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.