Edited to add: Little did I know that, on the same day that I was writing this post, Paris was undergoing an incredible tragedy at the hands of terrorists. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of the City of Light. Vive la France.
Many years ago, as a college student, I’d studied in France (not Paris, but a provincial city) and occasionally hanker to go back for a visit. So I was attracted to “Longing for Paris” by its title and–let’s be frank–sexy cover image of a croissant. But I’ll be honest: When I read the cover endorsement–“This book is a must-read for moms”–I almost passed it by. I assumed its message wouldn’t apply to me because I’m not a mom.
I’m glad I persevered. Turns out that the central messages of the book–that we can find joy and satisfaction in our current circumstances and not always wait for “someday,” and that our deepest longings are actually symptoms of homesickness for our true home in Heaven–did resonate with me. I’m glad I didn’t pass it up as a book just for “moms.”
Sarah Mae longs for the City of Light–its art, architecture, gourmet food, culture. But right now the Paris experience seems out of the question, tethered as she is to her duties as a wife and mother–a life she also loves. Gradually she comes to understand that she doesn’t have to wait for Paris to make her dreams come true–she can seek out elements of that other life in her current life, and enjoy them in the here and now. The essential elements she associates with “Paris” can be found anywhere for those who are willing to look. She muses about whether dreams are dangerous (and let’s face it–the “follow your bliss” theme often leads to disaster) or whether they can be gifts from God, indications of His design and purpose for each one of us.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, life on this earth is largely formed by our choices, and mature adults understand that saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another. For Sarah Mae, “yes” to wife-and motherhood means “no” to writing in Paris cafes, at least for a season. As she envisions a parallel life without children and domestic responsibilities, I sometimes envision a parallel life WITH children, the way a city dweller might imagine life on a farm, or a teacher might imagine a career as a nurse–musings about the road not taken, not necessarily better, not worse, just different. Ultimately, for a Christ-follower, the road leads Home, whatever our earthly circumstances.
If Sarah Mae’s frequent references to Paris and French-style living don’t ring your bell, try substituting a dream of your own. Personally, I’d pick England over France as my dreamed-of geographic locale: the rosy, soft-focus, idealized England of Beatrix Potter and A. A. Milne and Rosamund Pilcher. Even if I never get there, there’s nothing to stop me from enjoying a treat of scones and tea on an otherwise ordinary day. And anyone who knows me, knows that I long for a rosy, soft-focus, idealized past. Obviously I can never go truly back (and probably wouldn’t really want to, if I could–not for long, anyway) but there’s nothing to stop me from fastening a strand of pearls around my neck and cueing up Cole Porter on Pandora to get a taste of the past in the present day. I think that’s her point.
Overall Longing for Paris was a quick and light read, clearly written for a Christian audience, with abundant Scripture references, 35 “search-your-heart” questions for deeper thought, and a group discussion guide.
Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.