Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mon amie américaine: A Novel by Michèle Halberstadt and Translated from the French by Bruce Benderson

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

When two colleagues become close friends they believe their friendship will last forever, but when one of them suffers a devastating illness, the bond between them is stretched to a breaking point. 

Two women are film industry colleagues and very close friends. Molly is a charismatic and dynamic Manhattan businesswoman until, at the age of forty, she has a brain aneurysm and falls into a month-long coma. Frightened and debilitated, she is a shadow of her former self.

Michèle, her Parisian friend, must grapple with these changes as she contemplates the nature of her relationship with a now-unrecognizable Molly. Is the bond the same when everything you once loved about a person has changed? What becomes of a friendship you once thought was unbreakable? Author Michèle Halberstadt explores the guilt that arises from these questions with grace and sensitivity.

my thoughts:

A quiet, emotional read that explores the depths of friendship. 

Two women who work in the film industry become close friends. One lives in Paris, while the other lives in Manhattan.  Molly is the American who travels all the time, is single, has bought a fancy new apartment, and is looking forward to the future.  Michèle is Parisian, she is married with kids, enjoys work, spends time with friends, and seems to be content with her life.  Suddenly, their lives are upended - Molly has a brain aneurysm and falls into a coma; Michèle finds out her husband has been cheating on her and that her best friend is in coma.  Eventually, Molly wakes up and moves in with her parents for a bit.  After some time, she moves into an apartment with a nurse.  However, Molly is not the same woman she once was.  She's quit her job, she refuses to help herself, and she believes the her life is pretty much over.  As a result of her new mindset, she's become mean, demanding, rude, and dismissive.  No one wants to be her friend anymore.  Michèle's visited Molly throughout it all and she has seen the changes in her friend.  However, she thinks everyone is exaggerating a bit.  Until her last visit to Molly's apartment where she witnesses her horrible behavior first hand.  She cant' believe this is her friend! What happened to Molly - the woman she once knew?!  And that is the crux of this story - how can a friendship continue to flourish following a life-changing experience?

Molly is gone.  She is now selfish and cruel.  Michèle is still the same.  She has problems she wishes she could discuss with her dear friend Molly, just like she used to be able to.  She has memories of the places they went, the laughs they shared, etc.  Except, now she no longer has that Molly in her life.  Instead, she has a new,surly Molly that she doesn't want to be around, let alone talk to about her problems.  In the beginning, Michèle understood that Molly was going through too much, so it would have to be all about Molly at the time.  Except, as time progressed and Molly's condition improved (as much as Molly would allow it to), she realized that she still couldn't talk to Molly (because Molly wouldn't care to listen to or even want to help her).  Yep, her friend Molly was no longer her friend.  Their friendship ended when Molly became someone else. 

Halberstadt explores friendship realistically and honestly in her story.  She writes about the ways in which friendships evolve and devolve. I love how she portrayed this deep friendship and its eventual demise.  I felt it was so true to life.  Friendships do change and end.  Sometimes, they can survive something like what Molly went through, but sometimes they can't.  Michèle cherished her friendship with Molly, but that was in the past.  The new Molly she met was not someone she could be friends with anymore.  It was heartbreaking, but true.  Halberstadt shows us how hard it was for Michèle to accept that her friendship with Molly was over.  She's open about the feelings of guilt and anguish that Michèle experienced through it all.   You can't help but empathize with Michèle and come to understand why she decides to no longer visit Molly when she's in town.  

Mon amie américaine is a terrific story about friendship.  Its slow-going, well-written, and mesmerizing.  I absolutely loved reading it!  What a perfect story to kick off Paris in July with!


Mel u said...

This sounds like a very moving book. Thanks for sharing it

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Mel u, it really is a moving book. That word sums it up perfectly. Thank you for stopping by :)

Paulita said...

Wow. It's funny cause most of us think we'd always be someone's friend, no matter the circumstances. If someone actually changes, becomes another person, is that still possible. Thanks for the in-depth review.
On Mondays, I have a meme called Dreaming of France. Come play along if you get a chance. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Paulita, thanks! I know what you mean, because that's so true - we all would like to think that nothing would change, but I think we realize that it would have to. Definitely a great read! I'm heading over to your blog now :)