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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Throwing all caution to the wind,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)An odyssey of emotional extremes, big leaps, lots of great sex and some hard-won wisdom, Francoeur's memoir of one intense year is an intimate and ultimately transporting tour-de-force.
She begins at the crux of things, with a weekend that epitomizes her life at 58 and the change that's coming. She and Eli, her bipolar mate of 18 years, are headed to New York to visit his dysfunctional family. Francoeur has started to board the plane when she hears Eli "who wanted to see his mother like he wanted to have a colonoscopy," yelling and cursing and turns to find him surrounded by a crowd of nervous young National Guardsmen pointing guns and demanding papers he can't find.
At the end of the stressful weekend they get lost in Chinatown where they're meeting Eli's old friend Jim for dinner. After Jim guides them to him by cell phone, Francoeur relinquishes responsibility. "The burden of Eli lifted, I feel like a kid."
During dinner, chatting, she wants to tell Jim she's asked Eli to move out. Instead she says: " `I'm in the middle of a midlife crisis, I guess.'
"I'm shocked by his response. He laughs. His laugh is loud, manly and, always, I think, somewhat lewd. `Aren't you a little old for that?' "
He's crossed a line, and so, she's thrilled and frightened to discover, has she. Six weeks later she and Jim are in bed together in his Chelsea apartment. Not that it was as simple as that, not at all.
A journalist, editor (she was, once upon a time, an editor at this very newspaper), and former creative director at two Boston area museums, Francoeur is a striver, a perfectionist, and used to being in charge. Her lovers have always been cerebral. Eli is a brilliant, talented poet, but unable to keep a job. A single mother, almost six feet tall, she thinks of herself, and always has, as the strong, responsible one.
But Jim is six-foot-five, broad shouldered, physical. He works with his hands and takes his manhood seriously. Drawn to his dominance, "desperate for macho," "I, in defiance of everything that came before, run roughshod over everything I've carefully arranged in my life."
But surrender, as it happens, is not enough. Their first night comes perilously close to disaster. At 58 and 67, they both have a lot of ties to others, a lot of responsibilities. Francoeur approaches this momentous occasion obliquely, exploring the important minutiae of what came before and what developed after, letting us get to know her, admitting us into her life before she takes us along on that December night when she arrives in New York and things begin to go haywire. She helps us to wonder what we would have done in her shoes.
She has been consciously separating from Eli for months. Every day for six months she has reminded him that he has agreed to move out. "It is impossible to overstate the desperation with which I crave serenity. Bipolar disease is a serious form of mental illness. We manage it, but it brutalizes both of us."
The love affair - which she keeps secret - strengthens her resolve, of course, but just before Christmas, when it's still as new as new can be, Eli takes himself to the hospital with a stomachache. Francoeur is certain his illness is due to overindulgence, but the medical staff won't listen to her - not about that and not about the dangers of messing with his medications.
Events quickly spiral out of everyone's control. What follows is a nightmarish rollercoaster as Eli endures repeated hospitalizations, mental breakdowns and suicidal impulses and Francoeur struggles to cope without deserting him.
"A toothache sends Eli over the edge. I once broke into tears in his dentist's office after spending a night with Eli in tooth pain. He's horrendous. Unbearable. Abusive. A dental assistant in the office took me aside and told me her husband was bipolar. When they're in pain, everything goes haywire, she said. You'd better hope he never gets back pain. Of course Eli did get back pain and I lived at a B&B for three months."
As the downward spiral picks up speed, the shape of things to come begins to form in her mind. "I must somehow try to save Eli and save myself. The difference now is these are mutually exclusive efforts."
Though she doesn't rant, her indictment of the medical profession - particularly, but not only as pertains to mental illness - is scathing. Breathtaking.
Between the almost surreal miseries of the medical debacle, Francoeur finds respite and refuge in the heady joy of Jim, their relationship deepening under the strain. The contrast between these emotional poles is heightened by Francoeur's straightforward delivery, leavened by lust, compassion, determination and, especially, humor.
"Lust at fifty-eight isn't much different from lust at seventeen. That's unfortunate, because a giddy fifty-eight-year-old isn't pretty, especially to her twentysomething assistant, who visibly cringes whenever Jim calls my work phone and I giggle at his jokes. I know I should get a grip, but it's hard. I'm utterly happy. Impossibly smitten."
In intimate, erotic, spare and muscular prose, Francoeur draws us into her world.
There's a frisson of wonder when we realize she means to have it all - the love of a lifetime and an unspoiled past. She will nurture and love Eli even as she plunges into a life with Jim where all the limits are untested. It's a giddy prospect - can she succeed? Can anyone? Read it and see.
An affirmation of love, sex and the notion that no one is too old for new adventures, even in the midst of mind-bending stress, Francoeur's memoir is scary, harrowing, passionate and fun.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exhilarating Free Fall,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)Depending on the individual reader, Free Fall: A Late-in-life Love Affair, by Rae Padilla Francoeur, may well be greater than the sum of its diverse parts. Although the sensual cover of the book and the additional frontal descriptor, "an erotic memoir," establish a certain tone and set of expectations for the reader, this open and honest oeuvre functions on multiple levels and holds a wide variety of appeals. So focusing on "the affair" and "the erotic" alone belies the full range and impact of this bold adventure, this complete sharing of a post-mid-life transition for one single mother, feminist, journalist, editor, and director of creative services at a prestigious museum.
What is remarkable is that Francoeur never allows herself to be derailed for fear of highly arched eyebrows, puritanical criticism, or even sheer voyeurism. She is an utterly adroit raconteur whose amazing story--in all its sadness, joy, and sheer physicality--just happens to be true. Whether she is detailing the fine qualities or tremendous struggles of her bipolar poet-mate of eighteen years or wading through the angst-ridden maze of mental health bureaucracy, she is both generous and unsparing. Similarly, there are no holes barred when she recounts the heady, sweaty exhilarations of her new relationship with a totally different kind of lover, albeit a longtime friend of her former mate.
Perhaps most notable is the quality of the writing itself. Early on the process of the writing, the author's own grown daughter read the first two chapters and said, "Mom, this was not easy to read. But I love your writing." That is indeed a telling remark.
For the truth is, this 288-page story is captivating and impossible to put down. Even as the reader fears for the protagonist-author, he or she hangs on her every word. The tension and suspense implicit in the telling of this more-than-candid tale propel the reader forward, initiating a kind of second-layer leap of faith or simultaneous free fall. Only readers who are willing to suspend their innermost objections, who are capable of listening without judgment, who are intrigued by the intersection of compassion and desire, will take that giant leap of faith required in any genuine free fall.
Traveling between her beloved seaside home in beautiful Rockport, MA and the small, artsy Chelsea apartment of her New York man, Francoeur traverses much territory, but the emotional depth of the back-and-forth journey exceeds the linear miles. In her acknowledgements at the end of the book, she admits, "Free Fall has asked a lot of my friends and loved ones. It is deeply personal and takes up subject matter not commonly broached among friends." Therein lie its power and its reach, its abiding tenderness and its unleashed passion. Intrepid readers--or anyone who has ever contemplated a radical personal and professional change in later life--might well embrace this free fall, while still hanging on for dearest life.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honesty and Sizzle,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)Free Fall: A Late in Life Love Affair is one of the best books I've read in years. Free Fall is an erotic memoir and much more. Rae Padilla Francoeur, age 58, begins a love affair with Jim, age 67. It's hot, very hot, explosively hot. Rae describes the passionate details -- how he touches and controls her body, how her passions smolder, build, and erupt. As graphic as her details are, I'm pleased that she uses language our generation is comfortable with instead of the edgier language that characterizes most contemporary erotica.
I love this book. I applaud the author's authenticity.
-- Joan Price, author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Francoeur Soars with "Free Fall",
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Realistic Love Story,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)This was a beautiful, realistic love story. Not only because of the participants ages, but because of the reality of the issues they dealt with. The writing was flawless and the story moved you along with emotion and the desire to see it through to the end.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun relateable read for us older women.,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Kindle Edition)I'm just enjoying the characters she has created and especially since I am familiar with some of the places the story is set in. We don't get to read about sexual affairs at our age and I think she nails our concerns and joys pretty well. I'm not finished with the book yet however.
5.0 out of 5 stars Sex -- Warts and All,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)Like many writers, I have long struggled with how to write with honesty. I mean the kind of nakedness that writers are supposed to have in memoir. Not just the soul-baring kind, but the sort which could leave you open to others judging or looking askance at you.
I recently read FREE FALL, by Rae Francoeur, and this book sets the bar high for honesty. It has been billed as a "late-in-life-love-affair" and erotic memoir. The writing in FREE FALL is breathtaking, carrying you effortlessly from one page to the next and the next. It's the kind of book I walked around the house with in one hand while cleaning with the other, because I simply didn't want to stop reading it for a moment.
But what struck me most about this lovely book was the writer's willingness to just put it out there.
I heard the author speak, and someone asked her, "Was it hard for you to bare so much for other people to read?" Her reply was, "I didn't really think about it."
That stopped me. I, and most of the other writers I know, have to make all sorts of end runs around the giant linebacking editor hulking around in our heads. And this, for the purpose of getting through a paragraph without stopping the flow in order to correct punctuation errors. But here was a woman who trusted herself enough to write about the most intimate of topics, sexuality, and about the struggle to carve out a life for herself vis-a-vis an old boyfriend who won't let go.
Letting go is the larger theme of this book, and it is the entire point of the intimate scenes. That is, the sex is not for its own sake; it is a symbol of how the protagonist embraces a part of herself she had never allowed before.
5.0 out of 5 stars Want is Ageless,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)Rae Padilla Francoeur's 'Free Fall' is one of the most satisfying erotic memoirs I've ever read. I feel she lives the idea behind Anais Nin's quote that I'll paraphrase: "...and as a woman, oh god, as a woman, I want to be dominated, his sexuality the pivot. I want to be pursued...' Meaning, the sex isn't really about 'domination' per se, but instead about the power of a strong masculine energy intent on coaxing feminine energy to come to life.
It's the classic fantasy made reality of a man who knows exactly how to 'separate a woman from her propriety' as Francoeur writes of Jim, her lover.
Even though Francoeur is well aware of her age, it only enhances the beauty of the story. These two people have loved, lived and lost, and know exactly what they're getting into together, so they also have the prowess to sidestep unnecessary drama.
The love affair is the most captivating aspect of this memoir, but not the only storyline. Francoeur is also coping with the deteriorating condition of her mentally ill Ex. But it was the erotic love that caught my attention, and made the book such a satisfying read for me. I think men would enjoy reading this one, as well.
5.0 out of 5 stars A well crafted memoir!,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)When Rae Padilla Francoeur lets go of the emotional barriers she has erected and learns to just "be", she finds her true strength, experiences her capacity to feel, and realizes she is limited only by her imagination as she accepts and learns to embrace her Free Fall. In her erotic memoir, Francoeur deftly and artistically weaves the past, present, and future to describe the evolution of her late-in-life love affair with her partner's long-time friend Jim. Faced with the unenviable decision to remain her long-time companion's sole source of support while he struggles with debilitating medical issues exacerbated by bipolar disorder or choose herself, she seeks solace in the arms of Jim who becomes her one true love. Francoeur's story is intense and seductive as she openly describes how her developing relationship with Jim leads her to discover the joy of letting go of her inhibitions, fear, and long-established limits that had kept her from truly experiencing the beauty of life during her previous 58 years. Francoeur's memoir is beautifully written, deliciously revealing, and educational. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for late in lifers,
This review is from: Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair (Paperback)Readers beware! This book is hot! Both men and women will enjoy it, for totally different reasons. Rae has an uncanny ability to put you in the moment, and boy oh boy does she have some moments! We are hurled into her chaotic life, witnesses to an almost unbearable situation with her bipolar partner of 18 years, and then voyeurs behind the bedroom door. We are right next to Rae on the Acela, back and forth, from Rockport, MA to NYC, and we take the free fall with her as she comes to terms with her life and her relationships. What a roller coaster ride it is.
Believe me, a martini will never quite be the same!
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Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair by Rae Padilla Francoeur (Paperback - March 30, 2010)