Foreign Affairs

When something is heralded as an “international sensation,” one of two things is usually certain: a) it’s another attack of Euro pop-culture crap (suds on the dance floor?); or b) it’s scantily clad.

On rare occasions it’s the real deal. Like Anna Gavalda’s new short-story collection, I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere, which has sold more than 700,000 copies in France and won almost as many (okay, several) literary prizes. The title underscores the theme of the book — namely, the meandering path people take on the quest for love. But this is no ho-hum string of romantic tales. What makes her deceptively simple prose so compelling is how effectively she gets inside the heads of her characters: a pregnant mother facing tragedy, a bored married couple on a drive, a young Parisian on a date, a rock star paralyzed by a sweet crush. The voices and observations are not so much cynical as just plain realistic.

And — thank heavens — perfectly fromage-free.

I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere is available online at amazon.com or at your local bookstore.