"Living with Henry meant embracing the necessity of a $150-an-ounce white truffle. When I reentered the kitchen, he smiled and offered me a taste of his potion. The sauce was velvety and impenetrable, the tastes of dinners past mingled with the present drippings and port, a bay leaf sailing on the surface of the dark liquid. I gazed around at the mess in the kitchen--my mopping and tidying had done nothing to calm the hurricane." -- From Perfection
After sixteen years of marriage, it would be hard enough to have your robust, social husband suddenly fall dead on the kitchen floor one fateful morning.
But what if, after the wake of this devastating loss, you discovered that your husband left explicit emails and professions of love to a narrow-minded, uptight Christian who happened to be a friend? A friend that not only babysat your only daughter, but frequented your husband's all-out dinner parties?, And, apparently, had been sleeping with your husband for several YEARS...right under your nose?
Insult to injury, right? If that's not bad enough, imagine that your passionate, charismatic and volatile husband was not only cheating on you with "her"...but with women scattered all over the U.S.?
Using the metaphor of "umami", an experience roughly translated as "perfection", especially in terms of savoring food (and the object of her late husband's culinary research for his contracted book) author Julie Metz chronicles her flailing rage and drive to understand in her mesmerizing memoir Perfection. Amidst the many acts of betrayal by her dead husband, Henry, Julie Metz valiantly muddles through parenting their young daughter, continuing her graphic design business (she designed the gorgeous cover for this book, in fact), navigating the complexities of friendship (including a dear friend who caught her husband cheating with his student), addressing her sexual attraction to a younger man, and more.
In less skillfull hands, these types of dicey circumstances could read maudlin, self-pitying, hateful or cynical.
But Metz is such a darn good writer that her descriptions of food, knotty social interactions, confronting her husband's lovers, maneuvering through complex emotions, deception, pushing to function, and searching for meaning--that of her marriage, of Henry's choices, and her new life without him (and with the knowledge of his infidelities)--read like a novel.
I'm not one for memoirs, but I could NOT put Perfection down. Although Metz may wonder if "perfection" really exists, I have to say that if I had to name a "perfect memoir", Metz's heartfelt offering would definitely be it.
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