French Prairie: A Novel
This is a contemporary novel with historical flashbacks based on library and ethnographic research. The main character (Catherine) is a French student who grew up in Normandy and studied European history as an undergraduate. As a teenager, she had read that French-speaking Canadians were the first permanent settlers in northwestern Oregon in the early nineteenth century. She also discovered that one of those French Canadian pioneers had practically the same last name as hers. Suspecting a family relationship with him, she looks up her father's genealogical chart and finds a blank space where her potential ancestor's descendants should have been listed. Eager to elucidate the mystery, she sets a long-term goal for herself: going to the United States in order to improve her English and investigate the French Canadian saga.
Catherine achieves her dream by getting a position as a mother's helper in Oregon, at the price of eventually breaking up with her French boyfriend. During her stay in the United States, she explores the former French Prairie area in northwestern Oregon. She also finds out through ancestry research that she is indeed distantly related to the French Canadian pioneer whose name is similar to hers. She meets some of his descendants and, after some detours and adventures, falls in love with one of them. All along she experiences occasional culture shock but gradually adapts very well to the American way of life.