Franchetti Mon Amour is a collection of great family stories set in a small town in Algeria, it expresses the deep bond and hilarious antics of rural village life. The story is refreshingly innocent with a Little House on the Prairie feel, and conveys a clear mentoring tone like To Kill a Mocking Bird. It is a story of coming of age through difficult times. It is a story of faith. It is a story of love. But most of all, it is a story of hope, a hope beyond all reason.
Targeted Age Group:: over 50
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When I was young, my mother’s stories painted vivid pictures of her childhood in Algeria. She was raised in a small village called Franchetti, (pronounced Fran-ka tee). Algeria is a large country bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the coast of North Africa. For a portion of its history, it was under French rule. During this time, most immigrants came from France and Spain, creating a unique mix of European and Arab culture.
Many injustices existed in Algeria as is common amongst all cultures. However, this story is not political in nature, nor does it pass judgment on the vying powers between nations. Instead, this is a story about hope.
When my mother told me her stories, I was astounded by how difficult and despairing times were through WWII and how discouraged she should have been. I was also amazed to find out how well everybody worked together. She told me they never doubted it would end well.
Bewildered, I asked her, “But how, with all the evil in the world, could you have hoped everything would end well?”
She said, “Hope is all we had.” It was then I determined to one day share her story. Like many of you, I was raised in a generation of conspiracy theories and armchair experts, with little exposure to any real sense of need or lack. I have often wondered what would happen now if we, as a nation, had to go through something like WWII. I know our military is strong, yet what about our resolve, and perspective? My greatest fear would be the potential disaster of our national lack of hope. Could we truly believe in our country, in each other, and in God to protect us? Could we find the courage to believe it would ‘all end well?’ Would we have the hope needed to realize victory?
At the onset of writing this novel, I had no idea a global crisis on the magnitude of Covid-19 was right around the corner, but I felt an urgency to complete the book. I felt compelled to share the beautiful perspective my mother had in the hardest of times. I wanted to walk you through her beloved catholic village and introduce you to the tapestry of people who defined it. I wanted to allow you the privilege to grieve with those who experienced the hardships of war and loss. I wanted you to taste the fruit of lives undergirded by strong values.
Franchetti Mon Amour is a story about coming of age. It is the title my mother chose before she passed away. It expresses the deep bond and love she had for her village. It is a story of faith. It is a story of love, but most of all, it is a story of hope, a hope beyond all reason. A hope we all still desperately need.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I developed my characters from a series of recorded conversations I had with my French Algerian Mom. She was a fabulous story teller, and she painted pictures in my mind of her childhood friends. I simply painted those pictures with words. In order to keep the flow of the story in tact, i combined some of her characters into one.
It was the first wildflowers of the season. I walked through the courtyard and called to Monsieur Gilbert, “Oh, oh, Monsieur, are you up?” Monsieur Gilbert used to be ‘le chef de gare;’ he managed the train station for thirty-five years. He retired just three years ago. He and Madame lived right across the street from us. The second I called out, he heard my voice, and met me in the front yard. He started his day early also.
“Bonjour Mademoiselle.” He greeted me formally, as he always did. His wife, Madame Gilbert was a hard worker, always helping in the church. She was quite a bit older than Mama, but they were good friends.
“Can I borrow your bike?” I asked for the third time this week.
“Eh ben oui!” was his standard response. He pumped up the tires good and firm as he began to inquire, “Where are you going today so early?”
“The violets are blooming,” I said, “And Yvonne and I are going to pick them before they get tired in the hot sun.”
“Ah yes,” he agreed, “ You must get to them while they are just waking up.”
He finished topping the tires off with air and then asked, “Are you going to tell me this year where you get such nice blooms?”
“Just on the hill, nowhere special,” I winked.
He knew Yvonne and I had a secret spot, he also knew I wouldn’t tell him.
“Well then, if you won’t tell me where you get them, will you please bring me a small bouquet for Madame? I think it will serve me well.”
I pulled my leg over the center bar making sure not to get oil on my dress. I kicked off with my feet and let the bicycle take its first two rotations down the hill before I put my feet on the pedals. As I rode off I called out to assure him, “Madame will have the fullest blooms we gather.”
With a small twinkle in his smile, he shouted, “Bien alors, my work is done.”
As planned, I met Yvonne where the village road crossed the river. We worked our way back up the river along a small dirt road leading towards the base of the mountain. Before the hills turned to mountain, we pushed our bikes off the road into the taller grass, and out of sight. We walked through the field to where a small spring fed a trickling path of water down the rocks. The violets were in full bloom and although you could see most of them from the village, the largest and most beautiful ones grew in the crevices of this spring fed landscape. This was one of many secrets Yvonne and I shared.
We gathered several bouquets, one for Mama, one for Madame Gilbert as I had promised, and most importantly, one large bouquet to honor the approach of Lent. We had two weeks before Mardi Gras and “la carnival.”
The parade would soon be here, and we had not yet even started our costumes; making costumes was as much fun as the parade itself. Every year, we hid in the sewing room designing and sewing until late into the night. The best part was the short breads and café-o-lait Mama would bring us. She also helped us with the hard parts. At the beginning of the season and before we started sewing, Yvonne and I always filled the room with fresh flowers. We felt flowers were nature’s most beautiful works of art and helped inspire our own creativity.
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