Mike Gershman was in the final stages of lung cancer before the doctor discovered he was sick. Every night after that, his wife of 25 years lay in his arms and sobbed, "What will I do without you?"
"You will go to Paris," he said.
Six weeks after the official diagnosis, he was dead.
In the officially-sanctioned grief book, the widow mopes in her house, wrapping herself in her husband's old shirts and becoming a pariah among friends and family. She hits bottom, crawls to some officially-approved house of redemption, and there, in the glow of the love of the Lord, starts the slog back toward life --- which includes, along the way, the writing of an officially-sanctioned grief book and the appearance of a Good Man (though never, of course, as good as her husband).
This is not that book, for the simple reason that Suzy Gershman is not that woman. She grieves for her husband, alright, but she's no moper. Indeed, rarely have I encountered a woman with such an optimistic take on life. She likes people, and people like her right back. She likes going out --- she's the author of the Born to Shop guides --- and the folks she meets in shops and cafes quickly fall under her spell.
So 52-year-old Suzy Gershman, to the surprise of her college-age son and a good many of her neighbors, walked out of her cozy, memory-filled house in Westport, Connecticut, and moved to Paris. (What would have surprised friends and family more: "I paid for the funeral with a credit card. I wanted the miles.")
And once she got to Paris, she had adventures with a capital A. Renting an apartment is a chore at best in France; the rules are crazy, the landlords often sadistic. Suzy's spared nothing; good cheer carries her through. Ditto the buying of a bed --- you have no idea how complex a transaction that is --- and the shock of buying standard kitchen items at three times the American price.
But Paris, she discovers, is a place where she can thrive. It's not just the flower-markets and cafes, i