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A bighearted, multisensory tour of France.

An American diplomat’s wife finds sweet solace in Parisian culture and cuisine.

It had been Mah’s (Kitchen Chinese: A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself, 2010) childhood dream to live in Paris, so when her husband accepted an extended assignment to France, she was ecstatic. The typically nomadic lifestyle of a foreign serviceman can be tough on a spouse, however, and when the author found herself alone in the City of Light after her husband was reassigned to Iraq, she was flummoxed. Despite her trepidation, Mah—whose predicament frequently mirrors that of diplomat-wife–cum-chef Julia Child—exuberantly writes of wandering around Paris “conscious of my American accent and Asian face” yet bravely immersing herself in its regional cuisine, which alleviated her loneliness and satiated a blooming curiosity about the luscious food of France. Mah savored the cuisine of 10 different French regions, beginning by sinking her teeth into clumsily ordered but impeccably prepared steak frites, then tackling headier fare like Andouillette. Threaded throughout are anecdotes on Mah’s Chinese-American childhood, her often difficult life as a diplomat’s wife, and the connection between French cultural history and its food. The author lingers over these stories as lovingly as the scrumptious food set before her. Recipes round out each colorful and mouthwateringly described segment as Mah travels to the Brittany region searching out crepes, Provence’s chunky vegetable soupe au pistou, and the Savoie staple, fondue au fromage. Consistently passionate and emotionally resonant, Mah’s prose brims with true love—not only for her adventures in and around the fragrant Parisian marketplaces, but also for daily life sharing delectable food with her husband and rediscovering herself during his lengthy absences.

A bighearted, multisensory tour of France.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-02599-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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