When a reader picks up this memoir from a bookstore, they should be given a complementary pair of rose-colored glasses to match the author’s perspective.
In How to Make a French Family, Samantha Verant recounts her experience of rekindling young love and becoming part of a blended family as an expatriate in Southwestern France. I picked up this book from the “Hot Picks” section of my library in hopes that it would satisfy my wanderlust as an armchair traveler. Unfortunately, the surface level nature of the memoir left me wanting.
Sometimes you have to get into the nitty gritty to make your story more interesting.
I was eager to learn what an expat’s life would be like. I can’t even imagine what is would be like to pack up, leave my home country and all that is familiar to me, move to a foreign land where I did not speak the language and did not have a job lined up, and join my new husband and his ten- and thirteen-year-old children in their home.
I still am not sure I have any inkling of what that would be like after reading this memoir.
Verant seems to be a very glass-half-full kind of gal, which is great…. except when people want to connect with and learn from the real struggles, disappointments, and challenges you have experienced (of course, along with the inspirations, highs, and heartwarming moments).
Yes, Verant does share examples of funny cultural faux pas and there were moments of sheer sadness, but it seemed like when anything negative happened, it was all tied up with a pretty bow by the end of the chapter.
The memoir didn’t get into the real nitty gritty parts of the story. Come on, did she never have to use every ounce of her will-power to keep herself from pulling out her own hair during confrontations with her new thirteen-year-old stepdaughter? And were there really no moments of wondering whether the French are really as stuck-up as everyone thinks they are?
I understand why she would want to give a nice perspective about her new home and the people she would be living with and around for the foreseeable future, however, sometimes you have to reflect and share the challenging, gut-wrenchingly honest parts of the story to make it more unique and thought-provoking for the reader.
I just feel like there were parts of the story that we didn’t get to experience, which I cannot fault Verant for – it’s her life and she can decide which parts she wants to share, BUT it did not make for a very interesting story.
This book belongs on a poolside table, not next to a cozy fireplace.
How to Make a French Family is a cute, lighthearted story full of hallmark moments of cooking, traveling, and spending time with loved ones. It is not likely that you will get lost in this book, but I would recommend it to anyone who loves French culture and cooking (there are several French recipes scattered throughout the book) and is looking for a charming summer read.
Title: How to Make a French Family: A Memoir of Love, Food, and Faux Pas
Author: Samantha Verant
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)
Published: April 4, 2017 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Genre: Memoir, Travel, Culture