What if you were to take everything wonderful in raising a child – the unconditional love; the the delight in the magic that is your child; the fears; the hopes; the wonder of watching this little person grow and blossom – and well, what if you were to do the exact opposite instead?
Childhood wounds can splinter the soul, and as we soon discover in this heart-breaking memoir, the journey to healing can be as unimaginably painful as what led to the wounds in the first place.
Erin French’s story is remarkable, and is all the more poignant when your read it, as I did, without any advance media exposure to Erin and her world. Instead, I rode along, heart fully open, along the path she sets out for us, hurting from every pore as her world rapidly deconstructs through cycles fed by shame, grief, loss, mental illness, and addiction – intermingled throughout with only the briefest glimmers of hope, joy and most tremulous of all, hints of love and belonging.
A foodie from a very young age, Erin and her sister lived with their parents in a small coastal town in Maine which is ironically known as Freedom. As the story hits their early teens, it becomes all too clear that the children’s life is to be anything but free.
Erin’s father, (a man that, as the plot develops, it becomes incredibly hard to feel any compassion at all for ) appears to devote all his free time to running his own diner, which is only possible with the sweat-fueled labours of his daughter Erin, while shamelessly victimizing his entire family.
This early exposure, to her father and his restaurant, sets in motion an early life-long existential crisis for Erin – how can the preparation of food, a core passion of Erin’s, so clearly be “love”, – the ultimate act of joy and nurturance – and at the same time, be associated with such raw and primal hurt?
“I was starving for his approval and my heart was already emaciated from the very same feelings my father had failed to feed me”
You can’t help but cringe and cheer for Erin – recognizing her pain and sharing in it, seeing her missteps and her struggles, and at the same time, wanting so badly to see her somehow mange to claw herself above it.
I won’t reveal the ending (no spoilers here), but let me just say, this lovely book, manages to tread a very fine line between desperation and inspiration, completely capturing my heart along the way.
“The utter joy in the room was palpable. I had brought joy to this space and made a warm memory for my guests”
I don’t believe I will ever approach the pleasure of a fine restaurant meal in quite the same way again.
A great big thank you to @randomttours for inviting me to join this #blogtour, and to the author, for an advance review copy of this wonderful and original book. All thoughts presented are my own.