finding you in France

May 22nd, 2012

Somewhere in the deep trench of what I call my “first life,” a friend gave me the book, A Year in Provence. The happy misadventures of an English novelist and his wife in the French countryside was a megaseller. It went on to spawn a TV miniseries, several sequels and the undying flattery of imitators—an entire genre of nonfiction pretenders that persists to this day. You know, books like A Year of Doing This, A Year of Doing That. They appeal to us because we all want to ditch our lives and end up somewhere other than a ditch. Makes for pleasant tripping, if only in our dreams.

My friend inscribed the book with ebullience, “Savor the taste of life!” She clearly knew something I didn’t, like why in the world you would ever use an exclamation point.

These were the days when I didn’t make time to read books or take trips and couldn’t conceive that life had a taste other than the bone-dry dread of worry, work, hurry, and sleeplessness. My life had no flavor because I had no appetite for it. Eventually, of course, I turned myself around, and glory be.

It only takes a flutter of your lids to open your eyes to a wider world.

First, I nibbled books like the one I’d been given. Then I took my first trip to France. (It wasn’t fancy, just four days piggybacking on my roommate’s airline buddy pass, sleeping on a stranger’s floor, eating on the streets. In other words, it was heaven.) I learned, and I’m learning still, that life has many flavors, not all savored, and not all sweet. I don’t live in France, but my plate is full. I’m never hungry, and I don’t want for more.

I’ve just finished a delicious book along these lines, Finding Me in France. Here’s why I liked it. Bobbi French (real name) wasn’t another writer with a book meme. She was a stressed out psychiatrist with a terribly important life in Halifax who did the unthinkable: she sat back, wised up and clocked out, selling nearly everything to give herself a flying start at saving her own life. Her infectious memoir, drawn from her hilarious blog, recounts the comedic first year of living (with her agreeably nimble husband) in a medieval town in Burgundy. It sounds fancy, but it’s not. It’s humble and endearing. She fumbles with the language, the customs, the personal hygiene, and the plumbing. Her new life required, as all heavens do, a face-first landing in a ditch or two. Interesting strangers put roofs over her very tall head and floors under her bad back; she ends up overeating quite nicely on the streets.

You can taste it all through her scrumptious stories and sumptuous photos. The taste is fresh and original: the freedom to find yourself.

Everyone has reasons to love France, but Bobbi gives you the best reason to love the French: herself, even if she’s really Canadian. I fell in love with this book. I’m giving away my coffee-stained pristine copy (each page turned only once!) at random, on Friday, to a lucky traveler who leaves a comment on this post. If you’ve been looking for something to bite into, come and get your life! This means you.

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50 Comments »

  1. that book sounds deliciously wonderful! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Comment by Barbara — May 22, 2012 @ 5:23 am

  2. You’re giving away your copy? Does that mean it’s coffee-stained?
    I like the review, especially the notion of ditching your life, without landing in a ditch! (exclamation points…we use them because we can! So there! !!!)

    Comment by Maria — May 22, 2012 @ 5:31 am

  3. Thank you Karen. I love the “face-first landing in a ditch or two” quote. Quite accurate! I’m still stumbling and bumbling about France and loving it 😉

    Comment by Bobbi — May 22, 2012 @ 5:32 am

  4. You used an exclamation point! 🙂

    Loved this. Sounds lovely.

    Comment by Lena — May 22, 2012 @ 6:10 am

  5. Another fun blog to add to my list…now I must go out and get the book! Thanks for sharing this.

    Comment by Susan — May 22, 2012 @ 6:18 am

  6. Sounds like my kind of read.

    “I learned, and I’m learning still, that life has many flavors, not all savored, and not all sweet. I don’t live in France, but my plate is full. I’m never hungry, and I don’t want for more.”

    Beautiful.

    Comment by Katie — May 22, 2012 @ 6:41 am

  7. I need to savor..wise up and clock out..this sounds like a wise guide..thanks!!

    Comment by Cynthia Capone — May 22, 2012 @ 6:57 am

  8. Sounds like a wonderful book!Thank you for writing about it! I will see if my library has it.

    Comment by Wylie — May 22, 2012 @ 7:07 am

  9. i’m parched…aching for positive exclamations.
    !!!
    thank you for this.

    Comment by celeste — May 22, 2012 @ 7:28 am

  10. Sounds enchanting 🙂

    Comment by Maggie — May 22, 2012 @ 7:39 am

  11. Last year I took myself to Europe for three months, Italy mostly, home base in my pappa’s home town in Germany’s Black Forest. To intentionally put myself in new contexts, new ways. I learned over and over again the gift of kindness from strangers and that we all “sleep under the same moon” (a gift from a friend). It’s become the prelude to walking on to my “what next”, having just given notice to my employer and my LIFE, taking with me, a me made richer for the experiences, and the people, both here and there.

    Comment by Katharine Weinmann — May 22, 2012 @ 7:56 am

  12. i’ll nibble that

    Comment by zenfant — May 22, 2012 @ 8:44 am

  13. This book sounds exactly like the fantasy I live in my head. As the mom of two wonderfully frantic and exhausting children (wait, I may be describing myself there) I am attempting to find a little piece of France or sanity in my own very busy adventures. Would adore reading Bobbi’s adventure, especially with the coffee stains.

    Comment by Kirsten — May 22, 2012 @ 8:45 am

  14. I love reading about travels to other countries and experiencing someone else’s perspective on culture, and how they adapt. One of my favorite books is You Shall Know Our Velocity, by David Eggers. Sounds like this book you mentioned will be on my Amazon wish list! Thanks!

    Comment by Melissa — May 22, 2012 @ 9:22 am

  15. thank you for this exquisite and generous offering. for inviting us to see our full lives (the pain and pleasure, simple and soulful, mundane and magical) with wonder and gratitude. always appreciate your guidance and wisdom, karen…gracias.

    Comment by melissa — May 22, 2012 @ 10:27 am

  16. The thing I most enjoy about books like this is taking the journey with the author. Maybe someday I’ll convince my husband to do the same thing!

    Comment by kate — May 22, 2012 @ 10:37 am

  17. I enjoy Bobbi’s blog, so…okay, I’ll bite.

    Comment by Michelle P — May 22, 2012 @ 11:09 am

  18. It sounds so good that I am commenting for the first time ever (though I did first look for it on my kindle).

    Comment by Kay — May 22, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  19. It has been 5 years since I experienced France, spending only 48 hours, at the end of a 21 day Europe tour. Seduced by the city of Paris and craving more, I vowed to return for a month long stay. Forget the tour books, Finding me in France will be the best guide!

    Comment by Deborah — May 22, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  20. I would love to take a bite!

    Comment by Gretchen — May 22, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  21. You know French Canadians believe they are the true French, they work very diligently to preserve the original culture and language, “Je me souviens” their motto.

    Comment by mj — May 22, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  22. Love reading your blog after discovering it this week in a search for online inspiration in living and parenting mindfully. This book also looks wonderful!

    Comment by Arika — May 22, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  23. Bobbi’s adventures sound delightful ~ maybe she’ll shed some light on my own self-finding experiment happening right here!

    Comment by Jennifer Derryberry Mann — May 22, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

  24. Let’s rediscover the charming France and maybe other hiding things… Thanks for sharing your “stained copy”!

    Comment by Beatriz Ro — May 22, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

  25. As a budding French teacher embarking upon a new chapter of life…this may just be the read I need. Thank you!

    Comment by Erin — May 22, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

  26. I’ve always wanted to go to France. And if I win, I’ll pass the book onto my sister-in-law, who has lived there and loves all things French. And she’ll share it, and on it will go…

    Comment by Kathryn — May 22, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  27. Feeling the need to untangle, get lighter, more free to move about, experience more of this wonderful world. I’ve spent so much time worrying, fearful, trying to be good, conform. Now I am just realizing what a gift life is, and who ever knows how many more days we have. I love to travel and I love to read how others have lived their lives.
    I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you!

    Comment by Pat — May 22, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

  28. Sounds wonderful and I would love to savor that. Thanks!

    Comment by Mathangi — May 22, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

  29. Sounds inspiring. I am ready!

    Comment by Jessica — May 22, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

  30. I’ve always wanted to go to France!

    Comment by Ranya — May 23, 2012 @ 2:14 am

  31. I love memoirs of people who leave everything to find a better life in a new country!

    Comment by Simoune — May 23, 2012 @ 2:56 am

  32. The book sounds wonderful and I like that you are passing along your copy.

    Comment by Denise — May 23, 2012 @ 3:05 am

  33. I plan on going to France sometime. Would love to read this book 🙂

    Comment by Anu — May 23, 2012 @ 3:42 am

  34. I have never been to France, and the book sounds like a perfect experience until I can go. In fact, maybe it will propel me across the ocean! Love memoirs and love your blog. Jane

    Comment by Jane Smith — May 23, 2012 @ 4:54 am

  35. Sensei Karenji, I love the fragrance of the Tao expressing through you. You have been a sober, down home, mamazen sister on my journey for many moons. I lived in France as you did for a few weeks in my 20’s and LOVED it. I Love my daily life equally. No hunger here. Would love to inherit your copy of “Finding Me in France”…as a swap. Been meaning to send you One Love Nuggets ( http://www.amazon.com/One-Love-Nuggets-Gabriela-Masala/dp/0615601618) for last few weeks. What is the best mailing address to ensure you will receive it? Delighted to send you a copy, whether I win the giveaway or not. Found me/”not me” home in the moment, dwelling in the One and the Way. YOU ROCK! Bless Everything, Gabriela

    Comment by gabriela — May 23, 2012 @ 9:09 am

  36. I’ve been devouring books and stories like this one lately. Europe is calling out to me.

    Comment by Stacey — May 23, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

  37. I hope it’s not too late to enter. I would love to read the book.

    Comment by marilee pittman — May 23, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

  38. I fell in love with France many years ago. Despite being British (before the E.U.we were notorious for poking fun at the French, and they at us!) I have found kind people, wonderful food and wine, intelligent conversation, (albeit hindered on my part by very poor French), and glorious sights to see. I even came across a lovely Tibetan monastery, Karma Ling, high on a hill in South Eastern France, near the village of Arvillard. This is certainly a glorious world!

    Comment by Judith Smith — May 23, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

  39. I would absolutely love to read this book! I’m going through a divorce and am hungry for books that make me feel good about independence. I think France and I would get along great. 🙂

    Comment by Crystal Jones — May 24, 2012 @ 10:33 am

  40. i found myself in spain!

    Comment by Laura — May 24, 2012 @ 11:22 am

  41. Would love a copy. It sounds like a book to savor this summer. Thanks.

    Comment by ReneF — May 24, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

  42. I love books! And exclamation points!

    Comment by Sharon — May 24, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

  43. […] and put their money where their eyes are. I know I do. And speaking of reviews … here’s a lovely one from Karen Maezen Miller, Zen priest and author of Hand Wash Cold and Momma […]

    Pingback by Hey Buddy Can You Spare a Review? | Finding Me in France — May 24, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

  44. I love her blog (and yours !) and can’t wait to read her book.

    Comment by Gail — May 25, 2012 @ 2:09 am

  45. Can’t wait to read this book. I have been to France (and to Quebec also) and I love France. Despite the squat toilets, it is wonderful.

    Comment by Elaine — May 25, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  46. I hope I am not too late! The book sounds inspiring!

    Comment by Kelly — May 25, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

  47. How delicious!

    Comment by Aparna — May 30, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  48. I may be a latecomer. I hope I am not. I need something new to read. This sounds like just the book!

    Comment by Susan — May 31, 2012 @ 11:06 am

  49. I would love to read this book!

    Kirsten

    Comment by Kirsten — June 1, 2012 @ 5:42 am

  50. Thank you!

    Comment by Pat — June 10, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

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