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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How to Love an American Man by Krissy Gasbarre

How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre
Published by Harper Collins ISBN 978-0-06-199739-6
Trade paperback, $14.99

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a luncheon celebrating the upcoming release of Krissy Gasbarre's novel, How to Love an American Man- A True Story.

The author is a bright and bubbly lady whose smile lit up the upstairs room at Fresco by Scotto, where the luncheon was held. Amy Bendell, the editor at Harper Collins who help shepherd this beautiful book, and Lisa Sharkey, Senior Vice President Creative Marketing Development at Harper, both said wonderful things about Gasbarre and her book, and both were drawn to the grandmother element of the story.

Gasbarre moved back home to DuBois, Pennsylvania following the death of her beloved grandfather, the head of her loving family. She was a little lost, professionally and personally. The man she loved moved to Bahrain, and she was losing interest in her job as a nanny in Italy.

When Grandpa dies, he left behind a bereft wife. Krissy always admired her grandparents' marriage, and now she had the opportunity to spend time with Grandma and ask her how she and Grandpa made their marriage work. Could Grandma give her advice that she could use?

One thing that Grandma tells her is "if you are really concerned with finding somebody to love then I am telling you that you have to stop focusing on yourself." When Krissy can't believe that her grandma is telling her to put aside her needs for a man, Grandma responds "if you love someone, that's what you do. It comes naturally."

Grandma goes on,
"A friend, Krissy. A man needs someone who supports his work. Someone who hugs him and means it when he walks in the door at night.  You want to be with a really good man? You have to have courage. And patience. Lots of patience."

Grandma's advice borne of years of practice is compelling. Her husband was a successful, charismatic, hardworking, business owner, and it wasn't always easy being married to him. Krissy listened to her grandma's advice and stories and tried to process it. Is this advice still relevant in today's world?

Krissy was set-up on a date with a highly eligible oral and facial surgeon, Chris. Chris was handsome, smart and building his practice. Their first date did not go well, and Krissy next ended up dating Tucker, a college student six years her junior.

Her relationship with Tucker had its ups and downs, and after a disastrous weekend fishing trip that Gasbarre describes in brutally honest detail, ends badly. I can't imagine there is a woman out there who can't relate to that section of the book.

Gasbarre is also honest about her grandma. She is a bit of prickly woman, and I'm glad that Gasbarre resisted the temptation to portray her grandma as a sainted lady. She often tried the patience of her children and Krissy.

The life of a widow is tough, and Gasbarre does a masterful job in her description of it. I really felt the ache of Grandma's loneliness, and it is a feeling that many of us who have long, happy marriages will sadly have to face at some point in our lives. The scenes where Krissy and her grandma are the only single ladies in a group of marrieds at parties and family gatherings touches on the loneliness that people can feel lost in a crowd.

Gasbarre's writing is wonderful and heartfelt; she chooses the perfect phrase and words, and she balances Grandma's life and advice with her own journey to find her place in the world. The titles of the chapters are Grandma's words of advice- "Know When To Say I Love You" "Support His Work" "Get Your Own Life Settled".

If I have any criticism, it is that Gasbarre compares her feelings about her troubled relationships with her grandma's loneliness at losing her husband. I don't think you can compare the loss of a husband of sixty years with the loss of relationship of a few months; there is no comparison. Someday she will realize that.

How to Love an American Man has been compared to Eat, Pray, Love, but I find this to be a stronger book. Telling Grandma's story alongside Krissy's search for a loving relationship really touched my heart, and makes it less self-centered, as has been the (justified) knock against Eat, Pray, Love. 

This book will appeal to many women- those who have love and lost, as well as those looking for lasting love.
rating 4 of 5 stars


  1. I came across your review from Amazon late last night (just randomly surfing for a read) and found myself reading this review from your blog. I clicked on your name and it linked me here... Long story short, your review caught my attention and I just finished reading this book digitally today. I indeed loved this book. Her descriptions of all things Pennsylvania took me back to my childhood home. I am a guy. Yes, I said it. I'm a very normal, football loving guy. And I am not ashamed to admit, that this guy, misses his grandparents just a little more today.

  2. I'm so glad that you enjoyed Krissy's book, and this has to be the sweetest comment I've ever gotten on my blog.