How To Love An American Man is a coming-of-age and coming-to-love memoir by Kristine Gasbarre, an American writer, daughter, granddaughter and woman on a quest for love — like so many of us. The story opens with her arrival from Italy to be at her grandfather’s deathbed, an event that emotionally decimates her. Coupled with a recent breakup from her British beau, Krissy comes to Pennsylvania seeking solace and comfort. Needing to be with family.
Her grandfather’s death opens a door for Krissy to become closer to her grandmother, Gloria, a feisty woman with sage advice on life, love and marriage. Having spent 60 years with her husband, Glo has plenty of insight for her eldest granddaughter . . . but Krissy has to be open to hearing it.
Kristine Gasbarre’s How To Love An American Man is a book that emotionally socked me in the stomach in a way that few books ever have. Like Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes, a novel that changed me, Gasbarre’s true look at her grandparents’ marriage — and what may have gone awry in her own love life — was emotionally wrenching and unique.
In a word, I found this book refreshing. It’s not about a dysfunctional family, for one, and that was wonderful. Krissy has no qualms about spending the day with her grandmother, escorting her to doctor’s appointments before they sit down to talk about Kris’ plans and fears. As someone who is also close to my grandparents, I saw shades of my own relationship with my grandmothers in Gloria and Krissy’s chats. And it’s so rare to read about a happy family, isn’t it? The Gasbarre clan not only works but flourishes, leaning on one another through everything. It was heartwarming.
How To Love An American Man is framed around Gloria’s advice on becoming a strong, independent and worthwhile woman, and it’s not just about finding a husband (though she would certainly wish that for her granddaughter). Gloria is the scene-stealer in every chapter, doling out words of wisdom on marriages as partnerships and being the sort of woman you would be proud to know yourself. I loved that Krissy took her grandma seriously, treasuring her thoughts — and I also loved that, despite the somber tone echoing the Gasbarre family’s grief over losing their patriarch, the memoir never becomes maudlin.
On the contrary: it feels upbeat. And hopeful. And like, no matter what happens, Krissy will be able to savor the time she’s spent with her loved ones and become a better person for it. She certainly seems to have evolved from start to close, and that’s something I crave in my reading life: lessons learned.
Oh, yes — and there’s the love interest. Several, actually, but the most prominent would be Dr. Christopher, a local MD who dates Krissy briefly before hiring her instead. The whole will-they-or-won’t-they vibe, which was electric, had me craving to know the outcome . . . even though I wasn’t sure I would be pleased with the end result. Though self-centered, Chris did seem like a decent man — and I wanted him to be It for Krissy. Their relationship seemed well-drawn and realistic.
Read over a very busy weekend in which I snatched as much time as I could to crack its spine, How To Love An American Man is a stellar debut from Gasbarre that I would firmly recommend — especially to twenty-somethings and their mothers. It’s a powerful and lyrical look at family, love and commitment, and I’m dying to get my hands on Gasbarre’s follow-up — already in the works.
Hats off to you, Krissy; you have an enthusiastic new fan!
Pick up your copy of How To Love An American Man on August 16.
5 out of 5!