Mon amie américaine
Author: Michèle Halberstadt
Translator: Bruce Benderson
Publisher: Other Press
US Release date: April 12, 2016
Mon amie américaine
was first released in French in 2014
also available as ebook
Genre: literary fiction
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
It is quite unusual for a novel to receive the exact same title in its original French version and its English translation. It makes perfect sense for Mon amie américaine, as it explores the evolution of a friendship between two women, a French and an American one.
One night shortly before Christmas, Michèle, living near Paris, hears that her good American friend from New York, Molly, barely 40, just arrived on “planet Comma” after an aneurysm.
Banging out her grief on her computer, Michèle writes a letter to Molly, trying to imagine what this strange land looks like.
In the seven notes of the scale, is there a magic combination, a series of sounds to discover, like those François Truffaut invented in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to establish a connection with the extraterrestrials? What melody could create a path all the way to your planet Comma?
Michèle and Molly got to know each other through their jobs in the cinema industry, hence the presence of many references to movies, including some by Tarkovsky.
She reflects on Molly’s unhealthy life habits – typically American (at least according to clichés”, her “incorrigible opposite, whom [she’s] always found so wonderfully unreasonable” (page 14). The narrator/author also evokes memories and life in general.
As Molly slowly gets out of coma after a long period, Michèle gets anxious at how Molly will turn out to be. A personal tragedy in her own life makes Michèle struggle with guilt for living “a normal life” and at the same time wishing sometimes to be out of it to escape her hardships. It is also a difficult period as she has to reconsider what this friendship deeply means for her.
In less than 200 pages, the author tackles many themes around life and death, relationships between a couple, between friends, alongside the concept of handicap and of fragility of identity. The theme are treated well, with respect and without getting too emotional.
The only reason I only gave 3 Eiffel Towers here is that the main theme of the book ended up not particularly interesting me. But if you are into novels on relationships and friendship, you definitely need to read it.
EN DEUX MOTS :
Nous pensons avoir des amis très chers. Notre amitié est-elle à toute épreuve ? Et si notre amie change radicalement suite à un accident, la verrons-nous toujours de la même façon ? En moins de 200 pages, l’auteur traite habilement du sujet des relations humaines entre amis et au sein d’un couple.
VERDICT: Short and expressive reflection on what friendship means and how an unexpected event may challenge it deeply.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
When two colleagues become close friends they believe their friendship will last forever, but when one of them suffers a devastating illness, the bond between them is stretched to a breaking point.
Two women are film industry colleagues and very close friends. Molly is a charismatic and dynamic Manhattan businesswoman until, at the age of forty, she has a brain aneurysm and falls into a month-long coma. Frightened and debilitated, she is a shadow of her former self.
Michèle, her Parisian friend, must grapple with these changes as she contemplates the nature of her relationship with a now-unrecognizable Molly. Is the bond the same when everything you once loved about a person has changed? What becomes of a friendship you once thought was unbreakable? Author Michèle Halberstadt explores the guilt that arises from these questions with grace and sensitivity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is a journalist, author,
and producer of such films as
Farewell My Concubine,
and Murderous Maids, which she also cowrote.
Her previous novels include The Pianist in the Dark,
which won the Drouot Literary Prize
and was short-listed for the Lilas literary prize in France.