Thursday, July 10, 2014

We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn

Jennifer Coburn's memoir, We'll Always Have Paris, has the wrong subtitle. It shouldn't be called just "A Mother/Daughter Memoir". It should be called a Father/Daughter and Mother/Daughter Memoir. Coburn spends as much time mourning her hippie father who died young as she does celebrating the travels she shared with her young daughter.

Because Coburn's father, a hippie, drug-using musician who traveled the world, died young, she has always been terrified that she would die young, too. So, she decided to take her daughter, Katie, to Paris and London when Katie was only in second grade so her daughter would always remember that trip with her. Even at eight years old, Katie is the wise one, who celebrates and appreciates even the small moments, while Coburn worries, over plans, and is determined to make every moment count. But, Katie is such a good travel companion that three years later the "model helicopter parent" takes her daughter to Italy. When her daughter was fourteen, the two went to Spain. The final trip of the book is to Amsterdam and Paris.

There are moments in the book when Coburn really does realize she should "embrace the moments of your life." She and her daughter share food, laughter, music, and wonderful memories. But, interspersed between the stories of her travels with Katie are the bittersweet recollections of her father. She admits she was high for the ten years after his death until she began pregnant with her daughter. She has serious issues with losing him, first through divorce, and then when he died. She even hires a medium who is so blatantly fake that she hates herself afterward for trying to reach her father. It's her calm, reasonable husband who says, "I think you should try a good therapist who can help you work through some of these issues with your father."

And, I guess that's my issue with the book. Advertised as a heartwarming generational love story, with quotes calling it "hilarious" and "brimming with joie de vivre", I didn't see it that way. I found it sad that the author is so tormented by the loss of her father eighteen and more years earlier that the "mother/daughter" memoir spent as much time with regretful stories of loss as it did a celebration of the mother/daughter relationship.

In the end, I'm just sorry that Jennifer Coburn's We'll Always Have Paris is a story of loss more than a story of life.

Jennifer Coburn's website is

We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn. Sourcebooks. 2014. 377p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Reine said...

Oh I agree. I haven't read it yet, but I would have hoped that it would be about healing and living better with Family and others—letting go to live now. Insightful review.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Reine. The author's daughter did bring some insight into her life, but it seemed to me that she dwelled too much in the past and what she had lost, rather than the husband and daughter she had. I'd love to be able to afford to trek off to Europe for months at a time every few years, or anyplace I wanted every few years. But, when I am lucky enough to go someplace, I try to enjoy it, and not dwell in the past. Intellectually, I think she knows how lucky she is. Emotionally, I'm not so sure.