Thank you, Celadon Books, for sending me an advanced copy of this beautiful book. I’m eternally grateful!
I’d love to put a beautiful quote here (trust me, I underlined plenty), but the book isn’t going to be released until April 6th. In the meantime, immediately add it to your tbr and preorder it wherever books are sold!
I cannot share with you the joy I felt upon pulling this book from its packaging. My husband grabbed the mail from our massive mailbox, and I rapidly started thinking of excuses; from the size of the package, it seemed inevitable that I was opening a book I’d forgotten I’d purchased and would need to explain away. Picture my relief and delight when I found this ARC from Celadon Books sitting in my happy little hands! I’d never heard of Erin French or The Lost Kitchen, but as I read the back cover it was becoming apparent: this is the kind of memoir I could really love.
I will try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.
Finding Freedom is the story of Erin French’s life. It begins as most memoirs do, at the beginning. She spent her childhood on their family farm, playing in the fields and running free with her sister. When her parents purchased a diner, that become a new place to spend her days. In addition to becoming familiarized with the classic diner food (hot dogs and burgers and breakfasts and ice cream and donuts served with milk), she was afforded the opportunity to work in the kitchen of the restaurant. While she dreamed of becoming a doctor and leaving her tiny hometown, this kitchen experience would benefit her more than she knew in her future life.
A few wrenches are thrown in her plan as she leaves home, and she eventually ends up in an unhappy marriage struggling with substance abuse and debt. She opens a restaurant and loves every part of it: the cooking, the atmosphere, the homey-ness and the familial quality of working with her staff. From this, she finds herself at rock bottom; essentially, she has been stripped of all the things she loves. But guess what?
She comes back from it. And she rebuilds. And she comes home.*
*Clearly, there’s a lot more going on in the book; I consider these some of the main/major points. But also, THERE’S SO MUCH TO HER STORY. I can’t encourage you strongly enough to read it.
I cannot emphasize this enough: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I thought French did the most wonderful job of combining humor and a beautifully down-to-earth authorial voice with the struggle and darkness of her personal story. I mean, she goes through some really tough and heartbreaking things, but never once did the narrative feel overwhelmingly heavy or hopeless. There’s so much light and beauty and joy in it. I’m overwhelmed by how encouraging I find that to be.
“‘I poured it all out in the pages of this book. How do you tell your story of struggles to triumph without sharing the most vulnerable, darkest details of your days?'”Kastner, Julia. “Maximum Shelf Author Interview: Erin French.” Pages of Julia, 25 Dec. 2020, pagesofjulia.com/about/.
There’s also necessity to share with you that while it’s a book about a restauranteur and cook, this isn’t just a foodie memoir. It’s a lot deeper than that (not that foodie memoirs aren’t fantastic in their own right). It’s a celebration of womanhood and resilience and perseverance of the human spirit. Such exploration of relationships and identity is rarely done in a way that feels complete and still triumphant.
Also, THE DETAIL. THE DESCRIPTIONS.
The way she talks about food is mesmerizing. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me hungrier than this one. Erin French loves food, and that love means that she respects and takes complete joy in the way she talks about food. It makes you feel what she feels. In addition, she is describing where the food comes from so fully– the setting is really another character in the memoir. The farms and the forests from which she sources her food were some of the best backdrops of the whole book. I’m in awe of her attention to the perfect detail.
Drum roll, please.
I think this book is beautiful. It’s full of vibrant narration, and it’s one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in recent months. It’s a story of strength and struggle and home.
If you are someone who:
- loves food
- appreciates honest depictions of real-life relationships
- likes books that have poetic (but approachable), atmospheric language
- can’t get enough of memoirs
- relates to or loves reading about mother/son relationships
- want to catch this before you watch her show on Magnolia Network
- feel like maybe you want to abandon real-life and move to a tiny farm in Maine
this could be a fantastic book for you!
Until next time, happy reading!
And preorder Finding Freedom!