Today, I’d like to introduce you to a book, written by a friend of mine!
At seventeen, Jennie Goutet has a dream that she will one day marry a French man and sets off to Avignon in search of him. Though her dream eludes her, she lives boldly-teaching in Asia, studying in Paris, working and traveling for an advertising firm in New York. When God calls her, she answers reluctantly, and must first come to grips with depression, crippling loss, and addiction before being restored. Serendipity takes her by the hand as she marries her French husband, works with him in a humanitarian effort in East Africa, before settling down in France and building a family. Told with honesty and strength, A Lady in France is a brave, heart- stopping story of love, grief, faith, depression, sunshine piercing the gray clouds-and hope that stays in your heart long after it’s finished.
My old Teaching Assistant, Elva, was still in my life, although she had left the school and moved to Taipei to start working there. One weekend she visited and proposed to take me into the mountains on her motorbike—we could make a day of it and bring a picnic lunch. I loved riding the motorbike. I felt so free, whipping past the people and the sights at an exhilarating pace. Helmets were not required and I didn’t care whether or not I survived a fall, so I let the wind tug at my hair freely, and brace against my body. I wanted the wind to rip the pain out of the clutches of my chest.
At first we drove and saw the familiar busy streets, loud vendors pushing their wares at every turn. We stopped at the lights, lost in an army of motorbikes, the thick white clouds of exhaust reaching up to the first story of the buildings nearby. And then the roadways opened up and became larger as we saw more and more of the countryside. We rode on for over an hour like that and then, there in the distance—the mountain.
We drove onto the path that would bring us there, the straight, wide road that crossed the rice paddies on either side, and that eventually led to the base of the mountain before winding its way up. The curves in the road pulled our bodies to one side and then the other as we climbed our way to the top. When we got to our destination, we found a little dirt semicircle off the side of the road where we parked our motorbike under the hedges. As soon as we switched off the motor, I noticed how still it was; no one else was there but us.
We walked around the wall of hedges, baskets in hand as we chatted lightly. We began to pick the wild litchis in the tall bushes, reaching higher and higher to get the largest, juiciest ones above our heads, and we stopped to peel off their purple cardboard skin and taste the cloying sweetness of the fruit, before spitting out the smooth brown pit, our fingers sticky from the juice. When we had filled our baskets, we returned to the road and drove a ways until we found the large stream winding its way down the mountain. In the center, there were two broad, flat rocks that jutted out of the rushing stream of water, as if the dry smooth surface was beckoning us to settle on it.
Smaller rounded rocks formed a pathway in the current, and we were able to hop across them to reach the middle. There we sat talking and watching our empty litchi shells float downstream. We stayed there until the sun started to set, until we started to feel the chill in the early evening air. And then the fading light finally shook us out of our reverie, and we stood up to get our balance before hopping back across the stones, and collecting our things to go home.
I’ll never forget that day on the mountain, the day when the sights and feelings were so foreign it was like someone else’s life momentarily juxtaposed mine—the day I tried to outrun my pain. I remember how we turned towards the mountain, coasting freely over the crisscross of yellowed roads with their large grids of golden rice waving in the glaring sun almost as far as the eye could see. And the image of that hot sun, blue sky, the golden rice, the green and brown set of mountains ahead, and me, flying, flying across it all… I think this scene will flood my vision with its brilliant colors in my last days.
BUY THE BOOK AT AMAZON*
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennie Goutet lives just outside of Paris with her husband and three children, and she spends her time writing, cooking, chasing her naughty dog, and despairing over a weedy garden.
She is the author of “A Lady in France: A Memoir” and a contributing author to “Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for Grieving Mothers.”
Jennie blogs at http://aladyinfrance.com about family, faith, French recipes and culture.