Friday, November 19, 2010

Perfection : A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal - Julie Metz

Summary:  Julie Metz had seemingly the perfect life--an adoring husband, a happy, spirited daughter, a lovely old house in a quaint suburban town--but it was all a lie.  Julie['s] changed forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapsed on the kitchen floor and died in her arms.  Suddenly this mother of a six-year-old became the young widow in her bucolic small little town.  But that was only the begininng.  Seven months after Henry's death, just when Julie though she was emerging from the worst of it, came the rest of it.  Henry had hidden another life from her.

Perfection is the story of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood.  It is a story of rebirth and happiness--if not perfection.  (Summary from book - Image from    - Book given free for review)

My Review:  Perfection is a novel that, like the grieving process, manifests in stages. At turns lyrical, raw, and profoundly emotional, Julie Metz begins with Fog, the story of her marriage to her enigmatic husband, Henry, and life with their precocious daughter, Liza. I was enthralled by Julie’s romantic writing style, Henry’s extravagant dinner parties, and their shared love for Liza. Yes, her life seemed nearly perfect, until the day it all fell apart.

When Henry dies suddenly, Julie’s grief is overwhelming and made worse when she inadvertently uncovers the secret that Henry managed to conceal throughout their marriage. Like Julie, I didn’t realize or anticipate the depth of Henry’s betrayal and was horrified on her behalf.

In Storm, the contrast in Metz’s writing style and emotional state is immediate and arresting. When Julie finds out what Henry has done, it shatters her rose-colored world and she retreats into a dark abyss of blinding sorrow and torrential rage. This section of the book contains graphic profanity and occasional stream-of-consciousness ranting, which, though distinctly unpleasant, accurately portrays the depth of Julie’s fury. If this were a fiction book, I would probably say that the profanity was unnecessary. However, Perfection is a memoir, and Julie is not a fictional character. While I found this section of the book difficult to read, I cannot fault Julie’s chosen form of expression. I would probably use several of those words myself, and with liberal application, if put in the same situation.

I will admit to being intensely relieved when Julie emerges from Storm into Wind. In my mind, wind has always signified change and, as Julie regains some of her former sanity, we see a new assertiveness emerge. Julie examines the past, cataloging all the missed signs and attempting to differentiate between the lies and the genuine moments of her life with Henry. Through a series of life changes and some dating trial-and-error, she begins to look toward the future – toward Daylight.

As the title might imply, the primary theme of this book is the idea of perfection -- what it meant to Julie, what it meant to Henry, why we struggle to capture it, and how we lose it. Through brief reference to the Japanese culinary concept of umami, or a savory perfection, Julie’s overall message seems to be that while life may not be perfect, we can each appreciate the individual moments of umami in our personal lives.

Perfection is a brutally honest portrayal of a life broken and rebuilt. However, I have read stories of maddening grief that raked me across the coals, emotionally. This one did not. I felt her pain, but not my own. While I wanted to love this novel, I could not convince myself to do more than sincerely admire the author’s writing style, her ability to convey emotion, and her willingness to share such an achingly personal experience.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars   For the sensitive reader: This book will likely offend those sensitive to profanity or somewhat graphic sexual descriptions and situations.

Sum it up: A poignant and savory novel that is more than the sum of its parts.

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