A prickly young journalist reconnects with her father, a hot-tempered oenophile, on a wine trip through France.
Borel and her father, Philippe, have always had a rocky relationship. Philippe is a former chef and hotelier, and throughout Borel's youth, the family lived in hotels across the world. They finally settled in Quebec City, where Borel was involved in a fatal car accident. Though she was not at fault, the guilt of the other person's death still haunts her. Her father's response—or, in her opinion, lack thereof—plagues her too. Yet her love for her mysterious father, who shares her own bizarre brand of dark humor, transcends any lingering adolescent wounds, and the two embarked in a tiny car to meander through the French countryside. Throughout the trip, Borel grapples with two issues: her lack of wine “sense”—she could not even tell when a bottle was corked—and her father's looming mortality. Borel deftly captures the confusing emotions that surround parent-child relationships, especially the need for comfort and understanding that competes with a desire to rebel and establish one's own identity. Yet the author's gift for portraying that psychological whirlwind also causes the book to feel scattered at times. As she spirals through her existential crisis, the structure of the narrative flounders into semi-articulate emotional rants and only regains footing once she and her father are back on the road. Philippe's voice is so disarmingly charming and funny, however, that he assuages any sense of confusion on the part of the reader, and Borel, after these sidesteps. It is easy to understand the author's desire to bond with him.
A fast-paced read with nuggets of wine trivia that will appeal to anyone who has struggled to understand their parents.