Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: How to Love an American Man

Summary: An endearing and unforgettable memoir of love, self-discovery, and enduring, old-fashioned values 

Kristine Gasbarre made a New York career of dating driven, inaccessible men. When she realizes her love life will never result in happiness if she continues on the same path, she makes a big decision—relocating to Italy to discover her roots and find out what defines her adoring grandpa. But upon receiving the news of his sudden passing, she is lured away. 

With nowhere left to go, Krissy returns to her small hometown for the first time in a decade to help care for her grandmother—a refined, private matriarch suf?fering from early dementia along with the loss of her husband. In her reluctant agreement to share the nearly lost love stories and transformative lessons from her rich sixty-year marriage, Krissy’s grandma becomes the one offering comfort as she coaches her granddaughter through the fear of loving. Grandma’s unapologetic femininity and secret giving spirit opens Krissy’s eyes about relationships, teaching her the single most important requisite for loving a man: first a woman has to learn the power of her own inner beauty. -- Harper

It seems like a lot of the books I've been reading lately are ones that I learned about at this year's BEA. And HOW TO LOVE AN AMERICAN MAN: A TRUE STORY by Kristine Gasbarre is another one. I was fortunate enough to meet Ms. Gasbarre and I asked her about her book. As she began describing her story, I felt as if Ms. Gasbarre and I could be fast friends because we had a few important things in common. First of all, Ms. Gasbarre grew up in a very small town in Western Pennsylvania -- not too far from where my grandparents live. Secondly, we both are extremely close to our families and especially our grandparents. And finally, we both have Italian grandmothers to whom we are extremely close.

So when Ms. Gasbarre started telling me the story of how she returned home when her grandfather was dying and then stayed to help her grandmother, I began tearing up -- it just hit too close to home for me. (Yes, I was crying at a party!) Despite being older than Ms. Gasbarre and at an entirely different place in my life, I felt an immediate bond to her; and naturally, I wanted to read HOW TO LOVE AN AMERICAN MAN.

I first started this book one morning while waiting for Booking Son at karate class. The first chapter deals with the death of Ms. Gasbarre's grandfather and I could barely get through these pages. I pretty sure it's because it was a little to real for me, but I found  myself crying... in public, nonetheless. I immediately tweeted Ms. Gasbarre and told her I was having a hard time getting through her book, and she told me to keep reading because things would get better.

And she was definitely right! I enjoyed HOW TO LOVE AN AMERICAN MAN a great deal and I was so impressed with Ms. Gasbarre's story. Since I have already fallen in love with "my American man," I was a little worried that I wouldn't find parts of this book to be relevant. Of course, I could relate to the love she shares with her family and learning valuable life lessons from my grandmother, but I wasn't sure I would be interested in hearing about Ms. Gasbarre's relationship woes and how she worked to overcome them. However, I quickly learned that HOW TO LOVE AN AMERICAN MAN was about so much more than Ms. Gasbarre's personal life.

HOW TO LOVE AN AMERICAN MAN is about self-discovery. It's about going back to your roots and learning who you really are and what you really want in life. But it is also about relationships. Naturally, there is a great deal in the book about finding your true love (and then keeping that relationship alive), but it was also about multi-generational relationships -- i.e. parent/child and grandparent/grandchild. I most enjoyed (and related to) the give-and-take relationship that Ms. Gasbarre had with her grandmother. In fact, I would be lying if I didn't tell you that it could have been my grandmother and me in a few of those scenes. Furthermore, I loved that this book showed that everyone (young and old) can learn from special relationships in their lives. (I think Ms. Gasbarre's grandmother learned a thing or two from Ms. Gasbarre too!)

While HOW TO LOVE AN AMERICAN MAN was about Ms. Gasbarre's journey to self-discovery, there were also quite a few universal themes that I think women of all ages will understand. This book addresses the age-old issue of how to be in a loving and healthy relationship while also holding on to your own independence. (I think Ms. Gasbarre's grandmother is a wonderful example of this!) In addition, there are numerous examples of relationship advice and life lessons that Ms. Gasbarre's grandmother offers up throughout the pages of this book.

One thing I have failed to mention so far is Ms. Gasbarre's writing style. I like it a lot. The book was a quick and easy read for me (once I got past the death of her grandfather); and I found myself smiling quite a few times while reading it. I didn't always agree with Ms. Gasbarre's decisions, although it's easy to be an armchair quarterback; however, I found that I loved how much she changed because of the time she spent with her grandmother. There's no doubt about it, Ms. Gasbarre is incredibly candid and this book is very heartwarming.

reading guide available to help kick things off (is that my second football reference), and I thought some of the questions were very thought-provoking. I'm sure you can already tell what the major themes of the book are based on my review; however, some of the topics you might want to explore include grief, relationships, love, career, independence, love, marriage, and self-discovery.

I thoroughly enjoyed HOW TO LOVE AN AMERICAN MAN for a number of reasons. I appreciated that I was able to relate to many of the themes about love and marriage, but I most enjoyed reading about that special relationship Ms. Gasbarre had with her grandparents.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.


Alison's Book Marks said...

Oh, I met Krissy at BEA too, and she's lovely! I'm so glad her book was a delight as well.

Sandy Nawrot said...

See, I have lost all of my grandparents at this point, so I would have trouble as well. I miss them so much. I think that it is wonderful you have connected with this author. Great review.

bermudaonion said...

I was so young when my grandparents passed away, I barely remember them, but always felt like I missed out by not knowing them better. This book sounds wonderful to me.

Serena said...

I was so close to my grandmother when she passed, but my grandfather pushed us all away until recently when he was told he couldn't take care of himself and needed assisted living...at age 99..now at 100, he's still pushing back.

my grandfather on my dad's side died recently and I feel like I never knew him...everyone else has so many more stories about him than I do. Its strange how those relationships work in families.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

The story kind of reminds me of The Love Goddess' s Cooking School, but sounds sadder!

Alyce said...

It's wonderful when you can find a book with people that you can relate to so much.