How can I ask you to buy this book if I don't provide you with a sample? Even the Amazon web site clicks out free samples. I don't want you thinking that I chose this morsel-ette because it's the best piece of writing in the book, in the same way that previews of movies always show the best parts. I chose it because I think it -- like so many parts of the book -- demonstrates one of the ways that the French are so different from us.

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Excerpt from “Playing House in Provence”

A particular lunchtime conversation between us, our French teacher Monique and her lover, Ange, starkly contrasts French and American attitudes toward marriage. Is the idea of commitment learned or felt? Mo wonders. But what Mo and Ange, both of whom have been divorced, find laughable is the whole concept of “for better or for worse, until death do us part.”

“Why suffer?” they ask. What’s the point? And they practice what they preach. Ange will soon be replaced by Marc, and Mo by another woman. And it won’t stop there. Before we leave Provence for the fourth time, Monique will have gone through three lovers, and Ange will be in Canada living out of wedlock with his first wife.

And why bother to marry at all? We Americans, they say, are too earnest in our attitudes toward marriage. I am so eager to be French that I find myself questioning my fidelity. Why did Larry and I marry? And why haven’t we split up? God knows those thoughts have occurred to us both. We’ve stuck it out through plenty of “worse.” What was the point anyway?

For the moment, I seem to have forgotten that I am not French. Part of immersing oneself in a foreign culture can be a temporary loss of one’s moral compass. To prove I’m not a hopeless bourgeois, I tell them about my late, free-spirited aunt Lily who had five husbands and didn’t waste any time in between. Lily practiced what she called “serial monotony.” As soon as one husband lost his allure, she’d move on to another. Mo and Ange express their admiration, but they fault her for bothering to get married, especially after the first time.

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