A determinedly positive memoir about starting life over as mother to a family in southwestern France.
Vérant’s first memoir (Seven Letters from Paris, 2014) chronicled the author’s fairy-tale romance with a handsome French rocket scientist she had met 20 years earlier and then pursued after a divorce and a business failure left her in debt. This book is the happily-ever-after follow-up, in which the two marry and the author takes responsibility for her new husband’s two children, preteen Max and teenage Elvire. Rugby-playing Max took the new situation in stride; “porcelain doll” Elvire was less taken with her new stepmother. In short, peppy chapters, the author describes the stages of her adjustment to life in France. She got her driver’s license, made some expatriate friends, gradually increased her knowledge of the language, learned to scuba dive and ski, wrote her first memoir, and, along with her husband, renovated their house. As a “glass-is-half-full, not empty kind of girl,” Vérant touches on but doesn’t explore deeply the emotional pain of miscarriage. Instead, she provides accounts of family vacations, holiday get-togethers, the self-created “Stepmother’s Day,” and delicious meals, for some of which she supplies recipes, including one for “frushi” (French sushi). Her husband, Jean-Luc, can be “a little bossy,” but they never “argue, yell, or fight,” instead employing the “bonobo strategy” of using sex to defuse anger. The author’s descriptions tend toward the generic: one friend’s husband is “tall, dark, and handsome,” and another’s “dashing and charming.” So do her insights: “life is a bowl of cherries, even when there are pits”; “even with its twists and turns, nature eventually takes its course.”
Those looking for a breezy read about a transplanted American in France may be satisfied, but the book dwells more on Vérant’s personal life than on observations of the world around her.