Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre

In her late twenties, Kristine Gasbarre has had her fair share of unsuccessful relationships, dating all the wrong men. She decides to spend a year living and nannying in Italy, finding out something about her beloved grandfather's roots there. But then her grandfather dies and Krissy knows that she needs to go home, be with family, and comfort her widowed grandmother. So when her year in Italy is up, she flies home and chooses to move back to her small hometown, moving in with her parents. Wanting to help take on the care of her grandmother, Krissy realizes that her grandmother, happily, contentedly married for almost 60 years, would be the perfect person to help Krissy understand why she herself has not found the lasting love she so craves, to help her understand where all of her former relationships had gone wrong.

Gasbarre's evolving relationship with her grandmother is a satisfying and touching piece of her story. The tightening bond between the young woman and the grandmother who can teach her so much, especially about love, is inspiring. And Krissy's gentle attention to her grandmother benefitted both women so much. For a woman used to being needed, to be widowed and to have no one depending on her after almost 60 years of marriage must be unmooring, especially coupled with early stages of dementia. After a veritable lifetime of a perfect marriage, her grandmother had a store of wisdom that no one else in the family had tapped, so Krissy's desire to understand what had made her grandparents' marriage work happily for so long gave her grandmother a focus and a reason. An incredible love shines between Gasbarre and her grandmother throughout the book, when Krissy was asking for advice, when she was offering solace or alleviating her grandmother's loneliness, and even just when she chose to put her own plans on a back burner to take her grandmother to the doctor or to run errands.

It was this sense of caring for another person, coupled with a healthy respect for self, that Gasbarre's grandmother was trying to teach Krissy was a vital ingredient in any relationship. But Krissy was still learning and another relationship played out under her grandmother's eyes failed. A second love interest, endorsed by her grandmother, holds much more promise. I only hope that Gasbarre's grandmother was correct about Dr. Christopher, the major player in Gasbarre's dating life, and his potential to be "the one" because he comes off, in this memoir, as completely and totally unappealing. Emotionally unavailable and selfish, he is so dedicated to his work (and it is good work indeed) that he cheerfully goes completely radio silent for months, gives with one hand while taking away with the other, and stands Krissy up without showing a single shred of remorse. I just can't find what makes him such an appealing potential partner or believe that tolerating this uncaring behaviour is what her grandmother means when she says that Gasbarre must support her partner in his goals, accept him, and be completely in tune with his feelings and wants. What I saw on the page was just about 100% abnegation of her own wants and needs to a man who feels, at least as he is portrayed here, reluctant at best and unworthy at worst.

I found myself extremely frustrated by all of Gasbarre's dating relationships (including with Dr. Christopher) not because she was going about them incorrectly and not because she was asking her grandmother for advice, but more because she felt so needy in them and because she was so desirous of having what her grandparents had that she was willing to stay in each relationship long past the time that she should have, desperately trying to make them work by subsuming her own worth. Her familial relationships were much more appealing and evenly balanced than any of the relationships she had with men. And her relationship with her grandmother, where they became two equals, even while her grandmother gave her advice, was most satisfying and touching of all. Overall, this slowly moving, introspective memoir was fairly evenly balanced between evoking interest and annoyance in me.

For more information about Kristine Gasbarre and the book visit her webpage, her Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I enjoyed the family aspects of this one more than the dating tales. For me it seemed the men weren't worthwhile enough and thus not as interesting. I do think if I read this one five years ago when I was more nomadic (and single), then I would have liked it more.

  2. I'm curious about this one, but not "rush right out curious". Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  3. I'm intrigued with the relationship between the author and her grandmother - I love reading stories about family ties between generations.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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