When her mother passes away, Lisa Anselmo, author and narrator of My (Part-Time) Paris Life, realizes she has put her life on hold for years. As a dedicated daughter and loyal employee, her life revolved around everyone else, and now she finally has time to think about herself. She spontaneously decides to buy an apartment in Paris, a city with which she has a love-hate relationship. But Paris gets under her skin.
Her short escapes from New York become more frequent as she starts to make friends and find her way in a foreign city. She encounters plenty of speed bumps, not least of which is the infamous Parisian plumbing. It is normal to be leaked on or to leak onto your downstairs neighbor in Paris. Poor Anselmo ends up with an extreme case involving insurance agents and a temporary move to a different neighborhood which brings new discoveries.
This book hit home for me on several points. First of all, the author and I are both Italian Americans who adopted Paris (rather than an Italian city) as our new home. Why? Paris is a very romantic city with beautiful architecture, numerous monuments, and beautiful public gardens. There are plenty of tempting distractions between the museums, the restaurants, the cafes, the food, and the shopping. It's very easy to get around by public transportation, but above all, it is a city where women are appreciated.
Anselmo's predicament as a loyal daughter also reminded me of my cousin Cheryl who was about 8 years older than me. As a kid I admired her because she was pretty and she was nice to me. She worked for her family's business her whole life, never married, and was always there for her parents. Sadly, her mother passed away from breast cancer about 7 years ago. Cheryl found out I had moved to Paris when she saw my parents at the funeral. Soon after, she emailed me. She told me she admired me for being courageous, changing my life and moving to another country. We traded emails for a few month and eventually planned for her to come visit. Within a month, she told me she had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and would not be able to travel. She passed away in two months.
Circling back to the book, and with these anecdotes in mind, I think the moral here is to find a balance between obligation and following your dreams. In less than 300 pages, Anselmo's life completely changed as she moved back and forth between two countries, two sets of friends, two lifestyles and career change. It is a quick read and will be enjoyed by Francophiles and anyone looking for a contemporary memoir.
Buy the book