The French Lover’s Wife

The French Lover’s Wife is a new novel from Westchester Writers Workshop member Janet Garber.


Picture of Janet Garber
Janet Garber

Writing sustains Janet Garber—from journalism to horror, poetry to erotica, fiction to creative nonfiction—one common element prevails: humor running through her work like chocolate through a marble cake. Appearing in dozens of journals such as RavensPerch, Tigershark, Forge Lit Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Working Mother Magazine, her first novel, Dream Job, Wacky Adventures of a HR Manager, was finalist in the NGIBA Awards and a Runner Up in Best Indie Books. In April, her second novel launches: The French Lover’s Wife inspired by her sojourn in France in the 70s.

EXCERPT FROM — The French Lover’s Wife

Inside the Walls of la Roquette, 1975

I got off the Métro stop at dusk and directed my steps down Rue de la Roquette. A crooked little cowpath once, it winds down from the Bastille’s Angel of Liberty past the site of the women’s prison to Père Lachaise Cemetery, where many who fought for liberty and many who never gave it a thought molder in their graves. At my back, the angel glued forever to his pedestal, in certain lights and in certain angles gives the impression of impending flight.

Hurrying New York-style in Paris was not an option. A light rain was falling, I had no umbrella, and so was ducking under canopies, peering into shops, a prisoner of the homemade delicacies on display for commuters like me: pickled herrings, carrot and garlic salads, anchovy pizza, quiches lorraines, Alsatian choucroutes, rice pudding pies, and interminable rows of flaky, light, melt-in-your-mouth patisseries whose names I was still trying to master. Mille-feuille? éclair? clafoutis? flan? pithiviers??

In New York, we just said, “Give me a Danish.”

Tearing my eyes and nose away from temptation, I came upon a hardware appliance store: TV sets, radios, hi-fi’s, tiny refrigerators, washing/drying/pressing machines; then clothes shops, fancy baby dress shops, an Indian shirt store, the U.S. Army Surplus Store; a flower shop; a laundry; and a service center that would bail you out when your mini-toilet jammed. I walked on.

Across the street were dozens of cafes, brasseries, tabacs, a restaurant or two, a gas station, a new Vietnamese take-out joint. Unaware of its incongruity or proud of it, Théâtre Oblique squatted in the middle of the action, a square white building bringing arts and letters to the marketplace: Strindberg, Kafka, Ingmar Bergman. And not far from the theatre sat a little brown synagogue made of Jewish stars; its outside walls had been decorated for free by the various competing political groups. Nothing vicious, just free speech taking advantage of every available wall space.

Stopping well before Place Voltaire, in this best of all possible worlds, nowhere near the site of the women’s prison or the cemetery, I pushed open the heavy porte-cochère to enter the cobblestone courtyard of our hundred-year-old building, turning back to register the scene one more time: How could I have forgotten the horsemeat shop, Kosher butcher, triperie, charcuterie and the chicken, ducks, geese, and rabbits on display; the vini supermarché and the handful of pharmacies, coiffures, shoe stores, and bookstores? Qu’est-ce qui vous manquait? Why, nothing. Nothing was missing. You could live your whole life out on this street and lack for nothing.

What was I doing here? A little Jewish girl from Queens? No big deal in my hometown. Sure, I had impossibly thick black curly hair cascading down my shoulders, the porcelain complexion of most twenty-something women, a wide “come closer” smile, and what I was told was a certain “glow.” But I was well aware I had hit the jackpot. I bet not one of those snooty girls in my ninth-grade French class got to marry a Frenchman. Little Lucie Lerner, whose father was a butcher, and mother, a secretary, whose “bedroom” was the couch in the living room, little Lucie was living in Paris.

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The French Lover's Wife book cover
The French Lover’s Wife – Janet Garber

Writer Profile for Janet Garber

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