A good memoir, in my opinion, needs an interesting and if possible exciting life and the ability to write about it openly, honestly and in a way that engages the reader. Kristisn Louise Duncombe is an author who has written two very good memoirs.
In Trailing: A Memoir Kristin tells us how passion and love led her from the US to Kenya, Uganda and then Paris as a trailing spouse prepared to put aside her dreams in pursuit of her husband’s career as a doctor with the French organisation Médecins Sans Frontières. She immediately finds herself alone in Kenya in an area with many problems that include poverty, health issues and violent crime and finds settling into her new life a challenge. She shares the great work undertaken by organisations like MSF, but she also witnesses many things that leave her in a fragile and anxious state. Camping trips with scary beasts in the night, car jackings and worms that attach themselves to drying clothes and then burrow into your skin, to name just a few. Kristin also learns a lot about herself, but at times it was an uncomfortable journey.
When things get tricky she retreats to Paris, to lick her wounds and work out where her future lies. Paris is always a good decision in my book and it proved to be very healing for Kristin and helped her to see things in a clear and calm way. It is so difficult to imagine a life so different but I do know I wouldn’t have coped as well as she did.
Having enjoyed Kristin’s first memoir I couldn’t wait to start her second one Five Flights Up: Sex, Love, and Family, from Paris to Lyon as I was keen to find out what had happened to this very international family, who had settled in Paris. This was an important move for Kristin as most of her life has been spent moving from location to location, first with her Father’s work and then her husband’s. She is happy in Paris. They have an apartment, a sense of belonging and an extended family relationship with the other families that live in the apartment block. Kristin has her own practice and more importantly, financial independence and a sense of worth. The children are settled at school and happy and all is well in their relationship.
Then her husband Tano gets a job in Lyon, the money is better and he wants to relocate the family there, but Krisitin desperately wants to stay in Paris. The family becomes divided, firstly with Tano commuting each week and then, when she finally agrees to the move, Kristin returns regularly to Paris for her work.
This is the emotional, honest, amusing and very readable account of everything that goes right and wrong as they make a new life in Lyon. We discover their new city, meet the interesting new acquaintances they make and witness all their teething problems. Then there are a few other little things France throws at them, just when they thought things were settling down nicely.
I enjoyed both of these memoirs as they are well written and Kristin’s family really does have a different story to tell than most expat families. I’d also love to visit Lyon.