Thursday, November 13, 2014

We'll Always Have Paris - Jennifer Coburn


This is the second memoir I've read recently that deals with motherhood and children.  Odd, since I'm not a mother and have never had the desire to be one.  I chose the previous one, The Dog Stays in the Picture, because I thought it was about a dog.  It was, but it was also about a family and a mother and her looming empty nest.  I chose this one because it's a travel narrative, as well as a memoir about a father who died too young, the daughter who misses him, and her determination to create wonderful memories with her own daughter.

Coburn's father, Shelly Coburn, was a musician who had a hit song called Only A Fool.  He was the arty type, hard to pin down, but smart and philosophical.  He was often away playing gigs, and he and the author's mother divorced after only a few years.  He smoked a lot, both cigarettes and grass, and died of lung cancer at forty-nine.  Coburn has unresolved issues with her father.  She's convinced that she will die young, too, and she wants her daughter to have great memories of their time together.

Her husband has a one-man law practice in San Diego and she's a writer.  They don't have a lot of money, but she saves to take their daughter, Katie, to Paris when Katie is eight.  Her husband stays home to keep the income flow steady.  Coburn is also neurotic.  Maybe almost as neurotic as I am.  She gets sick on the flight over and Katie has to comfort her as she vomits in their hotel room.  What has she done?!  She doesn't speak French, so how can she safely shepherd her little girl around Paris?  They manage quite well.

This is not their only trip.  Over the course of the next eight years, they return to Europe, seeing Italy, Amsterdam, and Paris again.  Katie is an observant and bright girl.  I enjoyed her easy attitude and her comments on the places they visited, their experiences, and the people they met.  She teaches her mother a lot of things.

There are flashbacks to the author's childhood with her mother and father, two very different people.  I wondered why they ever married.  Thirty years after her father's death, she still needs things from him.  Or she thinks she does.  But does she really only need to forgive herself, as her husband and daughter and mother all tell her?

I enjoyed the book.  It's a decent combination of family dynamics and travel narrative.

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