Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review: Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France by Craig Carlson

I have a friend who posts on Facebook all the time about Paris. I've never been. My Mom wants to take the family to France this fall for her birthday, but it sounds like that will be more countryside than Paris (which is still awesome!) But I thought this memoir about a guy starting up an American-food diner specializing in breakfast in Paris, sounded funny and quirky.

It's not really those things but I enjoyed it very much. Instead Craig is a genuinely nice guy who had a rough childhood with neglectful (at best) parents, who turned out quite well despite them, and then after he spent his junior year abroad in France, decided he wanted to come back. He worked in Hollywood and had an opportunity to work on a film in France which he did, and that's when he had his epiphany—he really loved France but he really missed good old American diner food while he was there, and he figured there were others like him. And then it took him ages to get it all together. He worked as a temp and he defaulted on loans and he was broke. It took years to get financial backers and even to be able to afford a lawyer to write up those agreements, and then it took more time to incorporate in France, and to find a location, and to get a loan with iffy credit, and he finalized realize his dream when he was about 39, which gave me extreme hope. His life at 37 was looking even iffier than my own with a much crazier idea for how to get out of it, and he did!

Now the laws in France are utterly insane and he has several employees sue him (and win! Because a waiter threatening to kill Craig wasn't a good reason to fire him.) And right after opening, Bush declared war on Iraq and France was opposed to that and he seriously worried about backlash. There were convoluted problems along the way, at one point even causing him to spend a day in jail, but eventually things get more or less straightened out. He gets his second location off the ground. He hires mostly good employees who are also friends. And then he finally decides to tackle his longstanding problems with intimacy and his great fear of abandonment.

It's nice to see someone who has to struggle and go through rough times but who is rewarded for his effort and hard work and great idea. And even though I am in New Jersey, not Paris, I now really want to go to a diner. And I want to make pancakes.

I checked this book out of the library.

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