When I think of Paris, I think of cafés, pastries, love, and the arts.
These all come together in an unexpected coming of age novel, Passing Love by Jacqueline E. Luckett.
Two things immediately drew me to this book, the first was the softness of the cover, the second was the intermittent French, and the third was the protagonist is somewhat a woman like me - of the diaspora, older, always wanted to visit Paris, and a bit sheltered.
Nicole, even her name is oh-so-French, felt familiar to me, like we grew up together in the same time period. The novel, set in contemporary times as well as the times of WWII. Both eras are tumultuous with incidents of racial unrest, uncertainty,and the dawning of a new civil rights movement. Her experiences, as well as those of the other fully-realized women in the book, are known to us, we have lived through the angst of growing up with a mother who wants to keep us virtuous, the heartbeat of new love, the disappointment of failed relationships, the mysteries secrets of parents’ lives before us, and the promise of finding answers when we grow up.
This book was comforting to me, even as I felt myself rocking back and forth between my story, her story, and the story of the women who made her, Nicole could be sitting across from us, having a café au lait, practicing our elementary conversational French, and wondering what to do with the next half of our post-fifty life. I felt the breath released of the black ex-pats who could just Be without the cloak of racial identity hovering over them, the welcoming French and the controlling German, the abrasive Americans, all converging in Paris for the promise that city holds. It is a wonder and a place to find some of life’s answers. Or so we hope.
When we grow older, are we adults or still children when we encounter moments of our parent’s lives, decisions, and actions that affect our lives, decisions, and actions? Do we have the right to reach into the treasure box, read the folded letters, step into the mind frozen by Alzheimer’s or question the mysterious lady with the very French name? Should some things be left unsaid or should we go on a journey to discover these truths so we can be released to live authentically?
Passing Love is a beautifully written novel, familiar, hopeful, and just the right amount of conversational French in alternating chapters to encourage me to call up my ex-pat brother and insist he use the language of love when speaking to me.