“How can you be sick of living in Paris?”
Life unravels when American psychotherapist Kristin Louise Duncombe faces being uprooted again–to follow her husband from their secure nest in Paris to bourgeois Lyon. The result is a touchstone memoir for anyone facing a move, dealing with marital ghosts, or confronting the professional death of starting anew.
Duncombe’s unique specialty is helping “trailing spouses” maintain their sanity while following their other half around the globe. But she must reconfigure everything she thought she knew about her “expat expertise” when her child sinks into existential crisis, addiction to Lyonnais cream puffs blooms, and tea time is to be had with glamorous French moms whose sex lives include swingers’ parties.
This boisterous, big-hearted book provides a compelling glimpse into love, family, and sex in France, and a modern family grappling with the inevitable downs – and ups – of building a new life.
Kristin Louise Duncombe’s latest memoir picks up a few years’ after the end of her first memoir, Trailing, but takes us to very different places and you don’t have to have read Trailing to enjoy Five Flights Up. Duncombe is one of those “treasures” to find as an author because her writing is so authentic, honest and funny all rolled into one. While Trailing was all about her life in East Africa, this memoir takes us from Paris to Lyon – the most bourgeois and foodie of France’s major cities. She soon finds herself smoking dope with stick-thin moms at the playground and snarfing a lot of pastries from Pignol, possibly the world’s finest pâtisserie. She uncovers much about how the privileged live in France, as well as laying out all of her own slip-ups as a mother, a wife and a citizen of the world in her new setting.
I found myself rolling with laughter often as she describes how her skinny mama buddies keep their sex lives interesting with regular waxing sessions, sex exchange clubs and scheduled fellatio. Not only does she amuse us with what some French couples really get up to, but we also get an endearing story of a marriage between two people who have been there for each other and at times not been there for each other.
The honesty with which Kristin Duncombe describes her own foibles is beautiful and hilarious – “This is great teamwork,” notes her husband to the barage of texts she fires at him when she wants to live in a certain Lyon apartment that is five flights up with no elevator. Yet it is great teamwork that the two of them enjoy, and this memoir celebrates family, love, and yup, sex, in all of the crazy messy ways these things operate in our lives. Duncombe is such a talented author because she makes you feel like you are right there with her and she’d never judge you for any “non-teamwork” behavior of your own.
Grab a pastry, preferably something sticky and oozy from Pignol in Lyon, and escape your life to go hang out with Kristin in hers. This is life-affirming, warm and real.
My rating: 5 / 5.
You can buy Kristin Duncombe’s books here.
When Lizzie Harwood isn’t neck-deep in writing and motherhood, she is an editor and writing coach to amazing clients all around the world. Visit editordeluxe.com for more on writing, editing and creativity. See lizzieharwoodbooks.com for book club guidelines and giveaways of her three published books. Contact her at [email protected] with your book to review.