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Posted April 18, 2010
A friend who read this book says it made him think of advice a running coach gave him before they raced down a mountain. "Just go all out. If you crash you crash."
If you don't crash, you fly.
With "Free Fall," Francoeur goes all out. And she soars. She takes us along for the ride of a lifetime. That the ride begins when she is fifty-eight only makes us appreciate all the more how little we can predict about life and how ready we must be always to take what it has to offer.
Fair warning: this book is powerful and has the potential to disturb. This power comes not from the fearlessly and beautifully written accounts of lovemaking but from the questions the author's decisions raise in anyone who has wondered, "Is this it? Am I done?"
By our fifties and sixties, even those of us in the most uncomfortable of lives may hold back from change. Change is messy, unpredictable, painful. Not to mention frightening. It strips us of all we know and trust, challenges our compromises and leaves us "naked" as Francoeur expresses so well in the book. When the book opens, Francoeur's life is packed with both accomplishment and pain as she nears the end of a twenty-year relationship with her bi-polar partner. Her decision to take a lover, Jim, could have been viewed as a desire for escape, refuge. Instead, it is simply the first of many steps that Francoeur is able to take once she chooses herself. Choosing her own survival over her partner, Eli's, turns out to be salvation for him as well.
In this book, sex is the metaphor for the transformation Francoeur allows to take place in her entire life. Sex is the gift neither she nor her lover takes for granted and therefore appreciates all the more. It is the knife that peels away assumptions, layers of self protection and lays bare the need and want that pulse beneath. It is the place where Francoeur chooses to relinquish control and just see what happens.
"Free Fall" tells the story of a pivotal year in Francoeur's life. The prose is taut, elegant, and unapologetic; it wraps around your consciousnesses and pulls you into the story so completely you may not hear the questions rising in your mind as you go. By the time you are finished, however, these questions will be sounding in your brain like sirens. "Is this it? Am I done? Could I...?"
The answers may be unsettling or reaffirming. Good luck.