Heidi Bertolozzi is still grieving over her husband’s death in a freak automobile accident two years ago. She hasn’t been able to move forward in life and thinks and dreams about Henry all of the time. Heidi is a pastry chef but hasn’t been able to work in her bakery’s kitchen without thinking of the husband she shared the business with and has turned things over to her assistant. Heidi’s son, Abbot, can’t move forward either. He has become obsessed with germs since his father’s death, he continuously washes his hands and can’t hear the stories of his father’s childhood often enough. Even attending the wedding of Heidi’s only sister, Elysius, is seen as just something they have to survive, feeling no joy in the occasion.
In the first part of this book, we meet Heidi’s family; her beautiful half-French mother and her practical American father, who have relationship issues of their own. We meet her sister Elysius and her fiancé Daniel, the famous artist she’s been in love with for the last eight years. We also meet Charlotte, Daniel’s sixteen-year-old daughter, who’s become blasé about life and is trying to stay out of everyone’s way. Only when fate intervenes in the form of a house fire at their mother’s ancestral home in France will Heidi, Abbot and Charlotte face the coming changes in their lives.
In the second part of the story, Heidi, Abbot and Charlotte travel to the small village of Puyloubier, in the Provence region of France to repair the damaged stone house. Ms. Asher has made this house a character in the book; it’s been given the credit for healing the broken hearts of everyone who has stayed in it. Heidi, her mom and her sister, Elysius, would spend every summer at this house until the summer that Heidi turned thirteen, when her mother ran away from home to cure her broken heart alone. Heidi hasn’t been back since then and is both looking forward to and yet scared of what she will find. She wonders about Veronique, their neighbor and the caretaker of the house, and her family. Especially Veronique’s two sons, who she recalls from her childhood. It’s only now that Heidi begins to realize the heavy toll that her grieving has taken on both herself and her son. She forces both herself and Abbot to venture out of their comfort zone and they both begin to experience life. Julien, Veronique’s youngest son, enters the picture, and will play a pivotal role in both Heidi and Abbot’s future. Charlotte too begins to experience a freedom that she never expected to feel, and now on her own, she’s become responsible, calm and collected.
Heidi, Abbot and Charlotte face some major changes to their lives. Heidi and Julien have re-established their childhood friendship, which is now veering towards romance. Abbot and Julien have become fast friends, with Julien becoming a stable male influence who begins to help Abbot relax and let go of the awkward behaviors he had acquired since his father’s death. Charlotte has a major secret, one which will impact all of their lives and will help both Heidi and Abbot let go of the final stages of their grief. This opens their hearts to the future and to Julien, who has been impacted by all of their experiences.
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher is an amazing story about love and hope in the wake of loss, and of a stone house in the French countryside responsible for mending broken hearts since before World War II. The characters drew me into a world of love, tenderness and melancholy in such a way that when I finished the story, I kept looking for more. The author’s love of family, cooking and the French countryside is made obvious from the first page. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and loved how Ms. Asher developed her characters. The lessons she taught them were then imparted to me. I don’t think that I will ever think about life, love and one’s heritage the same way again. I look forward to reading more of this author's past and future work.
From the author of My Husband's Sweethearts and The Pretend Wife comes a moving novel about love and hope in the face of loss, in which a small house in the French countryside may be responsible for mending hearts since World War II.
Brokenhearted and still mourning the loss of her husband, Heidi travels with Abbott, her obsessive-compulsive eight-year-old son, and Charlotte, her intolerably jaded sixteen-year-old niece, to spend the summer repairing their family home in a small village in the south of France. There, thousands of miles from home, Charlotte makes a shocking confession, and Heidi learns the truth about her mother's ''lost summer'' when she was a child. As three generations collide with each other, the neighbor next door -- who seems to know all their family secrets -- and an enigmatic Frenchman, they'll journey through love, loss, and healing amid the lavender fields, warm winds, and pistou soup of Provence.