Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

One Foot in Front of the Other is Ann Webb’s story of her escapades in Europe on an impromptu trip gone sour. At the time of the trip, Ann was estranged from her family and had limited financial resources. An airline strike and mix-ups with discount plane tickets and prepaid credit cards all worked to create a disaster.

The last thing Ann expected was to become a homeless American in Paris. Like all bureaucratic systems, the French government gave her the run-around, and she was forced to sleep and walk on the streets overnight (every night) for her very survival. Ann did have a few people who helped her to find the necessities of life, such as shelters where she could fill her stomach and actually sleep in a bed.

Ann goes over her ordeal in great detail and describes the places she stayed, how she ate and what she did to stay awake and stay alive in Paris without a dime to her name. The reader will be completely engrossed in the story and will certainly hang on to every word. Right up to the point where Ann explains the wonders and ultimate benefits of Europe’s free healthcare system – the very one that does not allow her to get the benefits that she deserves as she wonders the streets of Paris homeless and hungry.

Spoiler warning: be prepared for the statement at the end of the book in support of U.S. moving to a system of free healthcare. It’s the author’s thinly veiled political statement about the condition of healthcare in the U.S. I realized that this was the point of the book early on when she does some explicit Bush-bashing and blames the Bush administration for engaging in what she calls an unnecessary war in the Middle East.

In the last pages of the book, Ann does suggest that the U.S. should have free healthcare just as the French do. What the author does not realize is that although the French have free schools, free healthcare etc., they and all Europeans also have supplemental healthcare which fills in the gaps of coverage which are not provided for in their “free” system. Just like in the U.S., if the French can afford private schools – well, they use them.

I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about “roughing it” in France and for anyone interested in finding out what not to do if stranded in a foreign country without funds, without friends or family to call and without access to the American Embassy.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Skyhorse Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.