Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France – Craig Carlson

(Reviewed by J.D. Jung)

“I spoke of my favorite city and how beautiful it was…How all it needed was an American breakfast joint, and then it would be perfect!”

Former Hollywood screenwriter, Craig Carlson, wanted to live his dream and open up an American diner in Paris. He fell in love with the city when he studied in France in the mid-1980s. As his life progressed, this vision became clearer and clearer.

But how would he go about accomplishing this? He knew nothing about running a restaurant or any business for that matter. How would he find funding? Would there be a demand for a restaurant that gives free coffee refills? With all of the obstacles he ran into, most of us would have given up, or at least think that this was a bad omen. Of course there were issues that would arise that he had no idea of. How about the cultural differences? Who knew that French employment laws are a lot different than those in the United States? So would his restaurant “Breakfast In America” even succeed? (By the way, I won’t even talk about the possible copyright infringement with the song of the same title.)

Pancakes in America isn’t just about living one’s dream with all its ups and downs, or a story about French culture–which are enough in themselves–but also a story about self-discovery. Yes, Carlson does go into his research like driving along the legendary Hwy. 66, and coming up with his target audience and a solid business plan. Yes, we learn about the unscrupulous vendors and business partners along with those he could always count on. But since this is a memoir, we learn a lot about Craig, himself.

What makes this memoir stand out though, is that he structures the story in such a way that the reader can’t wait to find out what happens next. We learn about him, the man, in the same way that he does. So many memoirs are filled with boring events that make you yawn. Not this one; Carlson isn’t narcissistic at all. Each element he includes is crucial to the story. Right when I thought that it was over (boom!) more happens.

I have never given a memoir a five-bookmark rating before; Pancakes in America is the first. After all, there is so much to love about this book.

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