For reasons she couldn’t explain to her friends, much less herself, Naturi Thomas left her life in New York to move to Italy to work as a nanny/English tutor to two boys. When that job didn’t pan out and she was unceremoniously kicked out on the streets, Thomas decided to buy a one-way ticket to Paris. There, in the city of love and lights, she would kill herself. She quickly discovers that killing yourself is harder than it looks. Having spent most of her money on the train to Paris, Thomas is left with nothing but the clothes on her back, the haunting memories of her abusive mother, and the harsh realities of being homeless on the freezing streets of Paris.
Getting through each day becomes her primary focus. Occasionally she comes across men who can offer her a temporary reprieve, even entering a short-lived, tempestuous relationship with one of them. For the most part, however, she is a walking zombie. The weather in Paris is cold and rainy, but she must stay on her feet and keep moving, especially at night when it’s more dangerous.
Sprinkled throughout the memoir are flashbacks to her youth. Thomas’s mother plays a huge role; she got pregnant–and, as a result, married–when she was still young, and she’s been taking it out on her family ever since in the form of emotional and physical abuse. Thomas’s father, meanwhile, is kind but meek; he never stands up to his wife and rarely intervenes on behalf of the children. Those parts were often painful to read.
You might think that How to Die in Paris is a depressing memoir, and to a certain extent, it is. You can’t help but feel for Thomas as she falls further down the rabbit hole of despair, trying to fend off the thoughts of suicide that insidiously creep in and out of her consciousness. Still, considering the subject matter, Thomas’s prose is surprisingly refreshing. Her words are raw and honest, but she writes with a wry sense of humor, peppering her misfortunes with sardonic commentary. Overall, the book is a triumphant testimony to life rather than death.
How to Die in Paris was released on November 22, 2011 by Seal Press.