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The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted – Book Review

Why were we here? The three of us suddenly seemed like an unlikely trio. This was a time for Charlotte to broaden her horizons, a chance for Abbott to overcome his fears, and me? I was on a pilgrimage for the brokenhearted and was supposed to learn to live again – to be alive. – from The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, page 134 –

Heidi is still grieving her husband Henry nearly two years after his tragic death. She has closed herself off from her business as a pastry chef, and from her family and friends. Her focus is on her troubled and fearful eight year old son, Abbott. She tells him stories about his father to keep Henry’s memory alive. When Heidi’s mother proposes that Heidi travel to Provence to renovate a house which has been in their family for decades, Heidi decides to make the trip and brings Abbott and her sixteen year old niece Charlotte with her. All three characters arrive in France with emotional baggage – Abbott carries his fears of death, Charlotte is seeking acceptance after being caught between her divorced parents, and Heidi hopes only to reconcile her grief and learn how to live her life again without Henry. Beneath the warm Provence sun, surrounded by the heady aromas of French cooking, and immersed in the secrets of the past, all three will find that healing is possible.

Julianna Baggott (writing under the pseudonym Bridget Asher) captures the beauty of the French countryside and made my mouth water with her gorgeous descriptions of food which is such a huge part of French culture.

I could see the pale gold chicken resting in its deep sauce of tomatoes, garlic, peppers. I could smell the garlic, wine and fennel. Veronique served and the juices ran sparkling to the edges of my plate, carrying a hint of citrus. And the smell bloomed. – from The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, page 242 –

The characters in this novel ring true. Baggott reveals their strengths and weaknesses, and creates characters who begin to feel like old friends. In addition to Heidi, Charlotte and Abbott, there is Henry – who lives on the page through Heidi’s memories – and Heidi’s mother, a “proper” French woman who harbors a secret from her “lost summer” in Provence when Heidi was just a young girl. Julien, the Frenchman who Heidi remembers from long ago, is equal parts charm and vulnerability as he reveals that his heart is wounded after a divorce. I found myself absorbed in these characters’ lives, believing their stories, and wanting to see them find happiness.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the house in Provence which becomes a character in its own right. Throbbing with the stories of love and miracles that have unfolded within its walls, the house holds its own secrets.

The house’s mythology was not just my mother’s. It was passed down through generations – how else could it have survived and thrived? – mostly down the line of women. – from The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, page 75 –

Grief and loss and the idea of moving forward and healing are strong themes in the novel. Baggott also explores the connections between mothers and daughters and between sisters. But it is the idea of opening one’s heart to another and the liberating exhilaration of finding love which is perhaps what turns this novel of loss into one of joy and redemption.

When you’ve felt shut down and then begin to open back up, what comes alive first? You think of all the usual suspects: the senses, the heart, the mind, the soul. But then maybe all of these things are so interconnected that you can’t differentiate a stirring of the heart from a scent, the rustling of the soul from a breeze across your skin, a thought from a feeling, a feeling from a prayer. – from The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, page 241 –

I found myself racing through this novel, gulping it down and immersing myself in its comforting words. Julianna Baggott writes from the heart. Her prose is deeply felt and honest. I loved her descriptions of the French countryside, her understanding of her characters, and the way she was able to merge the stories of multiple characters into a cohesive and compelling novel.

Readers who love novels that are grounded in setting and those who are drawn to women’s fiction, will love this novel.

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Want a chance to win this book? Visit the author’s guest post and learn how to enter to win a brand new copy of the book!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a book tour through TLC Book Tours.

Read other reviews of the book by following the links from the TLC Book Tours page.

9 Comments

  1. April 25, 2011    

    This looks beautiful and sweet. It’s not, at first, my type of reading but something about (maybe the French countryside??) is calling to me.

  2. April 25, 2011    

    I love books that have a foodie component, and the fact that this one is also populated by believable characters makes me very curious indeed. I am glad that you loved the book, and hope that I get the chance to read it too!

  3. Kay Kay
    April 25, 2011    

    I’m looking forward to reading this book as I’ve read several really positive reviews. Really enjoyed the quotes you shared. Thanks for your thoughts, Wendy!

  4. April 25, 2011    

    This looks fantastic. I’m definitely willing to give it a try!

  5. April 25, 2011    

    Everything about this book sounds appealing to me!

  6. April 25, 2011    

    This looks like a book I would love. I love books in which food plays a role in the story.

  7. April 26, 2011    

    You always lead me to the best books! The combination of food, France and overcoming grief are subjects I’m very much interested in. If I don’t win the give-away, I’ll definitely buy the book. It’s got my name all over it!! Thanks for the lovely review, Wendy.

  8. Amy Amy
    April 29, 2011    

    This book has so many of the elements I love in a novel – relatable, likeable characters, universal themes familiar to so many of us, beautiful writing and a bonus, the food component! Not to mention, a lovely cover!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this book!

  9. April 30, 2011    

    Pam: I think that a lot of readers who enjoy armchair travel will be drawn to this one.

    Heather: I bet you’ll see this one on a lot of blogs over the summer – it would make a great summer read.

    You’re welcome, Kay! I hope you’ll get a chance to read the book and enjoy it as I did!

    Julie: Hope you’ll love it 🙂

    Kathy: I think you’d enjoy this one!

    Beth: The food scenes are yummy!

    Les: You’re welcome! I do think this one is your type of book … can’t wait to see what you think of it!

    Amy: Yes, yes, and yes! LOL! Thanks.

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