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Dear Ms. Flinn
The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn
Greetings, Literature Lovers.
Today, I’m very pleased to be bringing you.
Lisa writes about all things books (a woman after our own heart!) at.
Dear Ms. Flinn,
On the heels of a hurricane in Hurricane Ike in 2008, I sat in a Texas airport waiting to board a flight for Chicago, which would prove to be a way station on the way to Prague, Czechia. Pushing my carryon bag to the side and reaching into my purse full of books and a passport, I pulled out The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. For a moment, I only held the book in my lap studying the cover. A woman’s back is turned, and she is facing an unknown future, the row of trees on either side sentries as she forges a new path forward. I wanted to be you. I was going to be you.
Though it reads now like I made the decision to move forward willingly, it wasn’t so cut and dried. Divorcing someone who leaves scars you don’t see, means a knife would have been cleaner in the telling. Maybe that’s why I first picked up your book in the bookstore. When I read the book blurb, I knew your foray into Le Cordon Bleu would be the kick in the pants that I needed to be brave, to go forward and not look back, and to carve out a new life myself.
It was your friend, Mike, who encouraged you to follow your dreams when it seemed your life had gone up in smoke. A friend I hadn’t seen in 12 years did the same for me. Encouraging. Pushing. Cheering. So, you put everything you had into realizing your dream with, if I remember the story correctly, thoughts along the lines of, ‘This is an opportunity to go. To learn. To explore. To bring to fullness your senses in the night market, walks along the Seine, living and learning as a local.’
Your cooking descriptions were mouthwatering, and I loved having recipes interspersed among the page of your story. One instance stands out to me among the others and became something of a battle cry for me.
I’ll never forget your descriptions of learning to cook a delicacy. Rabbit. I remember thinking, there is no way I could have done that, and how would I have said no. Could I have said no? There were so many things I wanted to say no to and whenever I thought that way, I would remember you had cooked a rabbit. Because of that, I had experiences I might never have had otherwise.
You found a home in France. I found it in the Czech Republic. Czechia. The name keeps changing, but the people and place are the same.
I went to Prague for a four-week course and stayed for four years. Over the years, I read your book when things got rough. When I got discouraged and wondered what the heck I was doing in a foreign country. Alone. I learned how to get around Czech grocery stores trying to recreate French recipes, and as time neared to come back stateside, I was learning French in Prague from a Czech teacher. Thank goodness, the student next to me was studying English, who could help me over my stumbling blocks.
I also read your book when things were going well, and I was particularly content with my experiences. Growing friendships over food, wine, and beer. This was Czechia, after all! I was learning the language, met people, and for a brief stint found myself in a job that had nothing to do with teaching English as a Foreign Language, which was the reason I’d come in the first place. I was settling into the Czech life. I was happy.
Expat friends who were struggling, I’d loan your book to them. It deepened our friendships as we talked about it and how it often paralleled our own experiences. Minus the world-famous cooking school, of course. But because of it, we formed dinner clubs and brunch clubs, and tried all the new restaurants. Some of our friends were chefs already, so we did our part when it came to potlucks and group dinners.
Your book was always in good company. It’s funny. Going to Prague, many of my books were of course, about the city. While living in Prague, many of my books were about France.
It’s been ten years since I came back stateside. Ten years trying to get home almost as soon as I arrived here. I was abroad too long and am a foreigner in my own land. I wonder if you ever feel that way or if you are permanently planted in your new home. And know, that soon I will be, too. Back home. Abroad. Looking to the future.
Thank you for showing me how to be brave. To take that next step into a life I couldn’t yet see, and finding that the best guide is a book written by someone who has been where you are.
Dekuji, Bonjour, Thank You!
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