Sweet, hilarious memoir of an American who got to do what so many people dream about (or threaten to do if their presidential candidate doesn’t win) – move abroad and open a classic American-style diner. Not just anywhere, but the dreamiest place of all, Paris. His goal, in addition to making a life for himself in France, is to open the minds (and mouths, as it were) of the French to American cuisine beyond McDonald’s. Not only his experiences as a Parisian expat, but some of his personal background and how he came to make these big, career-changing decisions are part of the story too, and they’re really wonderful to read. His road wasn’t always smooth, but there’s so much to empathize with and relate to.
I love his storytelling voice, he sometimes had a kind of Kevin from Wonder Years tone – it’s intelligent and humorous, often exasperated. A large focus of the book is the constant struggle with French, and to some extent, American red tape (even the band Supertramp is involved with some bureaucracy over Breakfast in America, the obviously perfect name of the diner). I thought that would be mind-numbingly boring to read about, but it was actually well done and delightful and made for such a good story. As an expat, I found so much to sympathize with. I can’t believe he had the strength and tenacity to pull all this off and become a very successful restaurateur while he was at it. I have no plans of opening a restaurant in a foreign country and yet I was completely inspired by his story.
And the other story that underlies it all – of finding your purpose in life and contributing something meaningful and worthwhile, regardless of how many people try to put you off it or make things a little harder, or how many wrong turns you inadvertently end up making – is just completely lovely. There’s a lot of joie de vivre to be found even amidst the harshness of realities. This is a great reminder of that.
The only downside was that I was left deeply regretting that I somehow never realized this diner (two of them, at that point) existed when I lived in Paris! I can’t believe I missed out on this place! After reading the book, you want to go there and give him a hug and a high five for accomplishing so much amazing stuff in light of the hard turns life constantly put in the way.
The photos, charming quotes and personal recipes were great additional details.
Recommended for fans of David Sedaris and David Lebovitz (like his The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City – $1.99 ebook alert there!) and another recent Americans-in-France memoir with a similarly uplifting and smartly humorous tone Beginning French.
Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France
by Craig Carlson
published September 6, 2016 by Sourcebooks
I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher for unbiased review.