Have you ever asked God, “Do you even know I’m here? Do you love me?” Jennie Goutet did. And surprisingly, or, not so surprisingly, depending on where you are in your faith journey (faith in who or whatever), she received a response. Eventually, she regularly listened and believed. One thing that is clear in Goutet’s heartfelt memoir is she isn’t trying to convert you; she’s simply sharing her story.
In “A Lady In France” Goutet spins a coming of age tale so vivid, so relatable, the reader is instantly entranced, invested in the outcomes of Goutet’s choices, situations, and life. You will reflect and laugh and cry as Jennie guides you through her life in Manhattan, France, Taiwan, the Philippines, Africa. You will feel her joy as she teaches English as a second language to children, how the bond she shares with them remains in her heart today. You will absolutely want to visit France, where Goutet finally finds herself, as she always believed she would, content and living a life well deserved.
Goutet takes us through her early days in France, the jobs she held, the love she worked tirelessly to have reciprocated, how she could see herself changing based on circumstance. For instance, Goutet noticed how more comfortable and secure she felt when traveling. She was maturing, and her readers get to witness it just as she did.
We learn about the death of her brother, how Goutet believed that never again would she feel joy or love. Easily, we can parallel this to her feelings toward religion. How could she be forsaken if there was a God? How could her brother? How could this be allowed to happen, this pain, this turmoil (I am totally projecting my own emphasis here, but know that Goutet does discuss in depth how her journey to Christianity was a winding road) if God exists? This is not the first time Goutet questions God, and it is certainly not the last.
We learn about Goutet’s sobriety, how she found herself in need of the addicts’ program she was volunteering in as a mentor. We learn about the normalcy in continuing to question God, even as we steadfastly believe. We learn it’s not necessarily questioning his will or his way, and certainly no outright disbelief in Him, but an understood wondering of how and why that God actually encourages as he is always patient with those that trust in Him.
Goutet’s is an international story, a journey to Christianity that started shakily, to which many of us can relate. Hers is a story of a journey to adulthood wrought with missteps, hurts, and pain along the way. Hers is a story of a journey to love, to happiness, to family. It is a story of a journey to France, where she finally found it all.
While Jennie Goutet is a good friend of mine, and provided me a copy of her book, the opinions and words here are my own.