Corked by Kathryn Borel

Philippe and Kathryn Borel are a father and daughter on a wine tasting tour of France, a trip proposed by Kathryn when she realized that she barely knew her dad. He had raised her trying to teach her everything he knew about wine, a subject in which she took no interest until she came to see that if she wanted to really know her father she should try to understand what he had spent his life doing.

I started the book with the expectation that it would be a quaint story in the same vein as Peter Mayles' Provence books. I was spectacularly wrong; it is anything but quaint. For one thing there's a lot of swearing and for another France and wine serve more as the backdrop to the working out of the father/daughter relationship.

Having said that, there is a great deal to learn about wine from this book. The descriptions of different wine regions, growing conditions, varieties of grapes and different methods of making and bottling wine are well explained and make for interesting reading. Surely it is everyone's dream to take a trip like that - two weeks driving through the French countryside tasting great wine at old family owned vineyards. It sounds close to perfect to me.

But that isn't the real story here. The real story is how Kathryn and her father connect, butt heads and finally get to a place of honest emotion and acceptance of one another. And that's emotion with a capital E. It gets raw and leaves you feeling like you've been through the wringer, but it's worth it. Knowing it's true and about real people gives you hope that just maybe the rest of us can work out our less-than-functional relationships too.

It took a few chapters to get into because at first it seemed too centered on Kathryn's feelings. In fact both she and her father were so self-centered that I almost gave up on it. The angst and self-analyzing got monotonous and Philippe was just plain obnoxious most of the time. But about half way through Kathryn got to me and I started to care. From that point on I couldn't put it down. She's an interesting writer, very articulate. She uses metaphors - a lot of them - that no one else would ever think of. Her writing is fresh and original and easy to read. 

I think this book is worth reading. The gut wrenching honesty and lack of ego needed to put this story out there in public are admirable. She has things she can teach us. As mentioned earlier, there is a lot of "language" so if that's a deal breaker for you, you may want to give this one a pass. If you can get past that, it's worth it.

In spite of the more or less happy ending, I found the last few lines of the story sad. Kathryn and her father joke that something they have in common is how much God hates them both. I know it's meant to be funny, but they've fought their way through such hard situations and come out stronger and closer to each other, and I feel so bad for them that they don't see their worth in God's eyes, how much He cares about them. To end it like that - this story that tells so well how the love between father and child survives the hard times and becomes a healing force in both lives - leaves me wanting more for both father and daughter.


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