Sheila Williams, Author . Ballantine $12.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-345-44873-6

The discovery of a stash of romance novels forever changes the life of a downtrodden nurse's aide in this engaging debut. Forty-two-year-old Juanita Lewis, an African-American woman with three grown children, has never read a book before, but once she starts, she can't stop. Emboldened by the stories, she decides to run away from home, change her life and seek adventure. No wonder: home is a two-bedroom apartment in the Columbus, Ohio, projects shared with grand-daughter Teishia; daughter Bertie, who's on welfare and sleeps until noon; and son Rashawn, a drug dealer likely to end up in jail alongside his brother Randy. All are left behind, when, despite their protests, Juanita buys a one-way bus ticket and heads west. In Paper Moon, Mont., her new life begins at breakfast in a diner where a standoff with angry chef/owner Jess Gardiner ends with Juanita at the stove cooking her own bacon and eggs. Two hours later, she's offered a job. No black folk have been seen in town since the Lewis and Clark expedition, and she becomes a sort of tourist attraction and local celebrity. Hoping for excitement, Juanita didn't dream she'd find romance as well. Her unlikely suitor is her taciturn employer, a Lakota descendant still haunted by his stint in Vietnam. This is an easy read, with lively dialogue and a fair share of comedy, but there's a credibility problem: would a longtime enabler and battered woman discover books and suddenly morph into a feisty feminist heroine? It's doubtful, but if so, hooray for literature. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-8779-7
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-345-45930-5
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-7862-5903-8
Mass Market Paperbound - 226 pages - 978-0-345-44874-3
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