“We’ll Always Have Paris” by Jennifer Coburn
Blurb: Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. It’s the reason she drops everything each summer on a quest to travel through twelve European countries with her daughter, Katie, before it’s too late. Even though her husband can’t join them, even though she’s nervous about the journey, and even though she’s perfectly healthy, she spends three to four weeks a year jamming Katie’s mental photo album with memories. In this heartwearming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped relinquish her fear of dying…for the sake of living.
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My Review: After reading “Tales from the Crib” by Jennifer Coburn, I was a huge fan, and have been ever since. Naturally, I was excited to start “We’ll Alway Have Paris.” Right away, Jennifer’s writing captured me, and sometimes I felt like I was on traveling along with them. I loved how Jennifer and Katie talked to each other, and found their honesty toward each other to be refreshing.
I liked “We’ll Always Have Paris,” but this one just didn’t get me like other books by Jennifer Coburn usually do. In ways of a book, I really wished I could have got more out of it, but didn’t. I really, really wanted to like it, but nothing seemed to really happen, and I found it to be more like a journal.
If you’re one who likes traveling memoirs, then I highly recommend “We’ll Always Have Paris.”
I give “We’ll Always Have Paris” 3 1/2 stars.
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“I’m profoundly in love with Jennifer Coburn’s memoir We’ll Always Have Paris! From Coburn’s picture-perfect travelogue to her hilarious observations, she’s woven together a powerful narrative with a heartfelt and thoughtful examination of what truly makes a family. I was enthralled from the very first page and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I want to read this again, tell all my friends about it… and then renew my passport.” –Jen Lancaster, NY Times best-selling author of Bitter is the New Black, Here I Go Again, and the Tao of Martha.
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Katie and I found the Shakespeare & Company Booksellers on the Left Bank across the river from Notre Dame. On la Rue Bucherie, at the edge of the Latin Quarter, stood a seventeenth-century monastery that housed Europe’s largest collection of English language books for sale.
New and used books lined every wall, cluttered and haphazardly organized. A mirrored wall included photos of authors who had visited, including Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, and Allen Ginsberg. A cat snuggled in the corner under a corkboard listing literary events and readings. It was a cozy haven that made me long for a pot of tea and a thunderstorm.
Painted over a threshold of the three-story bibliophilic heaven were the words “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.” Discreetly placed in the landscape was evidence that Shakespeare & Company lived this philosophy. Small cots, bedrolls, pillows, and backpacks were tucked between bookshelves.
“Do people sleep here?” eight-year-old Katie asked the clerk, a young woman with Bettie Page bangs, a vintage dress, and Doc Marten Mary Janes. I imagined her name was something like Prudence or Cleo.
In a posh British accent, Cleo explained that travelers were welcome to sleep at the bookstore if they worked a few hours during the day. These guests were endearingly called “Tumbleweeds” and could stay anywhere from a few nights to several months.
Tapping on her computer, Cleo continued, “Or, if you’re a writer, you can stay as our guest in the studio.”
“My mom’s a writer!” Katie exclaimed, standing on the toes of her white sandals. “Google her.”
Katie’s face begged for the sleepover.
Fear of dying young isn’t an altogether bad thing. Sometimes it makes you try what you might otherwise delay. I found myself agreeing to Katie’s requests, justifying that my indulgence would solidify fond memories.
“Check-in is at midnight,” Cleo told us before returning to her work.
At the appointed hour, Katie and I sat on a bench next to a half-dozen disaffected youth with pierced faces and unnaturally black hair. Their stained canvas backpacks sported logos of bands with names like Blistered Anus.
“Ouch,” Katie commented to a fellow Tumbleweed.
“They’re crap since they lost their drummer,” he returned in a sweet English accent.
In her pigtails and Bedazzled tank top, Katie shrugged. “That can happen.” She had absolutely no idea about how a change of musician could affect a group, but pursed her lips as though she’d been through it a few times herself. I admired her immediate acceptance of and connection to life around her.
Another mother and her young daughter knocked on the locked door apologizing for being late for check-in. Looking like characters from Les Miserables, the mother and barefoot Cosette explained they lost track of time in the Bastille Day festivities.
As we were shown to the Writer’s Studio, I had three thoughts about spending the night in the same bed where Henry James slept. One, they hadn’t changed the sheets since. Two, Katie’s bed was actually a yoga mat on top of a door that was resting on two file cabinets. These cabinets, I should add, were not of equal height. And three, Andy Griffith looked awfully young on that box of Ritz crackers in the corner.
A tornado of gnats came from the water spigot. Our window did not open more than a few inches. The room was situated directly above a row of trash receptacles.
Katie squealed with delight, “We have a view of Notre Dame!”
I, on the other hand, just smelled hot garbage. “Don’t touch a thing!” I warned Katie.
“Isn’t this the best, Mommy?”
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**If people pre-order the book any time before April 8th, through any book seller, I will donate my royalties from the first thousand books to the American Cancer Society. Click HERE to pre-order “We’ll Always Have Paris” on Amazon!
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