A Lady in France

“I was destined to take root in France. I know that now, even if I didn’t know it back when I had the dream.”

These are the opening sentences of A Lady in France, Jennie Goutet’s memoir which I’ve read now twice and loved.

Both times.

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You see, I’ve lived within a 45-mile stretch of California for 45 years (see also: my entire life) and have been outside the U.S. only a handful of times. A small handful, at that.

Jennie, by contrast, has lived on several continents, speaks multiple languages, and maintains a group of friends whose diversity rivals the United Nations. She once dreamed she’d marry a French man, then watched her dream unfold into reality.

But that’s only a part of her fascinating story.

There is a rawness and truth about Jennie Goutet. She’s unassuming and gentle. Funny. Real. Her words are straightforward – not at all flowery or sentimental – yet the sentences she strings together are so lovely, you feel as if you’re eating the food she has cooked or smelling the plants in her garden; listening to the laughter of her children; holding her hand.

Her hand is warm and welcoming, just like you knew it would be.

Of course, I’ve never held Jennie’s hand. She lives in France now and – well – I don’t leave the country. Much. Still, I traveled with her on every page of A Lady in France. She took me to Taiwan and the Philippines; Somaliland and Djibouti. To New York and then to Paris.

My heart broke for her in times of loss and soared with her in times of joy.

Although she writes about motherhood and marriage, addiction and anxiety,  Jennie’s story is – at its core – a journey of her faith. In the three-part memoir, she details her calls to Christianity (the times she did not answer God and, ultimately, the time she did).

With unflinching honesty, she recalls days of doubt and dark struggles alongside moments of hope and strength.

Jennie sugarcoats nothing about her life, examining both the blessings and the hardships (physical, psychological, spiritual); and although her experiences are one-of-a-kind, the universality of her search for belonging and goodness speaks to me.

We have never met and yet I still feel connected  to Jennie. In this book and on her blog, she’s as open and accepting as anyone I’ve known. I hope to greet her in person one day.    To hug her and breathe in the same fresh air.

If you read her memoir, I know you will feel it, too: friendship stretching across the miles; love triumphing over time.

You can buy A Lady in France – either in print and/or electronic – at amazon.com.

Then leave a comment here sharing where else in the world you would live, if you could. You might win a copy of Jennie’s book. I’m giving one away because I love it so much.

And I love her.

You will, too.

I’m sure of it.

27 Comments to A Lady in France

  1. by Lady Jennie

    On January 13, 2014 at 7:31 am

    I am frozen from all the emotions, and I don’t know what to say that could match such eloquence. :-)

    Now, see, if you were visiting me I wouldn’t be frozen because we would be hugging and cracking jokes. And then I would feed you this really amazing (I know because I just tasted it) galette des rois I made for tomorrow’s recipe post – marzipan cream in a salty-sweet flaky crust. See what I mean? You should be here visiting me instead of far, far away.

    In the meantime, these words of yours will stay written on my heart and that will just have to do.

    Thank you, lovely Julie C Gardner.

  2. by julie

    On January 13, 2014 at 8:08 am

    You are so very welcome, sweet friend!
    As for the galette de rois, you’ll have to make it for me.

    Your recipes are perfect. I, however, am far from it!

  3. by Di

    On January 13, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Julie, your words and Jennie’s description of her galette des rois make me hungry for her memoir and her galette!

  4. by julie

    On January 13, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Let’s fly to France immediately, Di.

  5. by Charlene Ross

    On January 13, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Wow! This book sounds fantastic. And because I trust your taste implicitly I am sure that this book must be quite wonderful.

    I lived in London for a semester in college and have always wanted to go back for another year or two. But I think I could also see myself living in Paris. Or Italy (somewhere on the coast would be nice). Or more locally on the beach in Ventura would be quite nice. :)

    I’ll have to check out this book, Julie. Thanks!

    And lastly, can I join you and Jennie for her galette des rois? That. Sounds crazy good.

  6. by julie

    On January 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Charlene, I love you enough to share both Jennie AND her galette des rois.

  7. by Laurel Janssen Byrne

    On January 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I can’t wait to read this – I’ve been looking for a novel to dive into and this must be the one.

  8. by Lexi

    On January 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Le sigh . . . would that I could live in Paris or somewhere in Belgium. Though I have lived in South America and in the U.S., Europe feels like home. :-)

  9. by Poppy

    On January 13, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I read the chapters on her blog, but my physical copy is on order. Now I really can’t wait to read it again.

  10. by Alison

    On January 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    I feel the same way about Jennie and her book.
    And? I get to meet her soon. Cannot. Wait.

  11. by DarleneMAM

    On January 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Oh, Julie! I can’t wait to read Jennie’s blog. And her book. Thank you for writing so eloquently about her!

    If I could live anywhere else but in New Jersey, which is where I’ve spend more than 50 years? I would choose to travel in Europe, renting apartments in the major cities of the world, some of which I’ve visited — Paris, London, Milan — and some I am dying to visit — Copenhagen, Dublin, Berlin, Swansea — so I could learn first hand about each city. And have adventures in each one!

  12. by NannyK

    On January 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    The universality of her search for belonging and goodness…is already speaking to me! Jennie’s faith and hope sounds very inspirational. Based on your description, her passion for adventure, ability to adapt to new cultures, and aptitude for picking up foreign languages is something I find so admirable. Also hard and a little scary. Can’t wait to read about her journey!

  13. by Ally

    On January 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    What a wonderful review – makes me want to scoop up the book and hide away to read it without interruption.

    As for me, I haven’t been out of the country much, but I have been to England. Being surrounded by all that history – history so much older than anything we can find here. I could live there and never fulfill my interest in the stories that the past has left behind!

  14. by Renée Schuls-Jacobson

    On January 14, 2014 at 6:23 am

    I’ve that a lot of people are reading this book. I’d love to have a copy, mostly because it sounds like her story is my story, except for the particulars. You know, because I’m still living in the US, and I’m still healing. But boy do I understand the repercussions of ignoring G-d.

  15. by Renée Schuls-Jacobson

    On January 14, 2014 at 6:25 am

    *seen that* a lot of people are reading this book. Oy.

  16. by heidi

    On January 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

    This book is on my list of have-to-get!! I’ve only just met Jennie and she is just so lovely. I know her book is wonderful and I’m so looking forward to reading it.

    Hi Julie!! I hope you are well and that your holidays were good to you. xoxo

  17. by erin margolin

    On January 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    you are such an incredible woman and friend, Julie. I have my copy of Jennie’s book, but have not yet read it for a few reasons, the least of which is that I want to make sure I give it my full, undivided attention. But I already know I’m going to love it.

    I always love seeing my friends who are bloggers/writers supporting each other like this. It reaffirms what I’ve always known, but that my husband and family don’t seem to get: internet friends ARE REAL FRIENDS.

    xoxo

  18. by Cameron

    On January 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    My wish list is getting exceptionally long, and yet? I still thank you for giving me one more title to add to it.

  19. by My Inner Chick

    On January 14, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    –I’ve been following Jennie for a while now.

    I appreciate her vast interests in gardening, cooking, parenting, and especially her relationship w/ God.

    I LOooooVE that you are sharing your space w/ her, Julie!

    Xxx Greetings from Minnesota.

  20. by Galit Breen

    On January 14, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    A beautiful review braiding the stories of two beautiful women — love. (*So much.)

  21. by KTP

    On January 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I would live in a pretty city, where I could walk to places I love, somewhere warm. Sigh.

  22. by Rina Baraz Nehdar

    On January 14, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Before having kids, I travelled a lot for work. It’s probably why I took the job. I got to work with kids during the day and then explore wherever I happened to be working at night and if I was lucky to layover, then on weekends. I was assigned to places sometimes I hadn’t even heard of like Kuala Lampur and Sri Lanka, that changed my world.

    Then my new husband and I decided to get pregnant and I realized my traveling days were numbered. It was on a plane ride home that I became angry at my husband. For some reason it was his fault that he was this wonderful man to whom I had recently committed to spend the rest of my life and with whom I would soon bring two beautiful boys into this world. Damn him. But I was sad to lose all the exotic experiences for which my soul called. I got over it though it took a while for us to figure out he hadn’t done anything and it was me that owed him an apology.

    These days I travel only through the eyes of my children as they experience this part of the world for the first time. And in the quiet moments when everyone is asleep and it’s just me and the adventure that calls to me between the pages of a book.

  23. by Alexa

    On January 15, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I came over from Jennie’s blog. I also absolutely LOVED her memoir. Her words, stories, and adventures absolutely pierced my soul. I am so glad to know her, even if only through the blogosphere and social media! Excited to be a new follower of yours. Jennie highly recommends you!

  24. by Suniverse

    On January 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I love Jennie – and you. You’d both get along so well.

  25. by Arnebya

    On January 15, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I just started reading and cannot put it down. I love Jennie. She knows that, but it feels good to profess it to other people.

  26. by Nina

    On January 19, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Great review! I have Jeannie’s book on my kindle and will read it this year! Her life absolutely fascinates me.

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