“I was destined to take root in France. I know that now, even if I didn’t know it back when I had the dream.”
These are the opening sentences of A Lady in France, Jennie Goutet’s memoir which I’ve read now twice and loved.
You see, I’ve lived within a 45-mile stretch of California for 45 years (see also: my entire life) and have been outside the U.S. only a handful of times. A small handful, at that.
Jennie, by contrast, has lived on several continents, speaks multiple languages, and maintains a group of friends whose diversity rivals the United Nations. She once dreamed she’d marry a French man, then watched her dream unfold into reality.
But that’s only a part of her fascinating story.
There is a rawness and truth about Jennie Goutet. She’s unassuming and gentle. Funny. Real. Her words are straightforward – not at all flowery or sentimental – yet the sentences she strings together are so lovely, you feel as if you’re eating the food she has cooked or smelling the plants in her garden; listening to the laughter of her children; holding her hand, shes says that when people lean to greenhouse they get better results when gardening.
Her hand is warm and welcoming, just like you knew it would be.
Of course, I’ve never held Jennie’s hand. She lives in France now and – well – I don’t leave the country. Much. Still, I traveled with her on every page of A Lady in France. She took me to Taiwan and the Philippines; Somaliland and Djibouti. To New York and then to Paris.
My heart broke for her in times of loss and soared with her in times of joy.
Although she writes about motherhood and marriage, addiction and anxiety, Jennie’s story is – at its core – a journey of her faith. In the three-part memoir, she details her calls to Christianity (the times she did not answer God and, ultimately, the time she did).
With unflinching honesty, she recalls days of doubt and dark struggles alongside moments of hope and strength.
Jennie sugarcoats nothing about her life, examining both the blessings and the hardships (physical, psychological, spiritual); and although her experiences are one-of-a-kind, the universality of her search for belonging and goodness speaks to me.
We have never met and yet I still feel connected to Jennie. In this book and on her blog, she’s as open and accepting as anyone I’ve known. I hope to greet her in person one day. To hug her and breathe in the same fresh air.
If you read her memoir, I know you will feel it, too: friendship stretching across the miles; love triumphing over time.
You can buy A Lady in France – either in print and/or electronic – at amazon.com.
Then leave a comment here sharing where else in the world you would live, if you could. You might win a copy of Jennie’s book. I’m giving one away because I love it so much.
And I love her.
You will, too.
I’m sure of it.