Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

Cleaving is Julie Powell's followup to her bestselling memoir Julia and Julia.  It is not, however, a followup in the sense that it's just as good.  It's simply a memoir of the years following the publishing of her first book and let me tell you, she took one huge wrong turn.

It turns out Julie's life became complicated after her first book was published, and not because she was suddenly a recognizable face on the street.  No, an old flame re-entered her life.  Here's the way she puts it: "I was starry-eyed and vaguely discontented and had too much time on my hands.  It was exactly the wrong time for the phone call I got that summer of 2004..."

And here, I'll admit, I started judging.  If there is one thing I hate, it's adultery.  I cannot understand how you can promise to be faithful, to love and support, to care for another person for the rest of your life, and then throw it out the window.  If you fall out of love with your spouse and in love with someone else, then fine, get a divorce and move on with your life.  But under no circumstances do I see why you should deceive and cheat on your spouse and then whine about it.  And that's exactly what Julie did in this book.

Sure, she comes up with some interesting metaphors as to how her new passion, butchery, is a lot like her life and how it's been torn apart.  But really, the only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to know if she would grow up by the end of it.  I'll save you the trouble: she didn't.  Instead of growing a pair and filing for divorce, she bitched and moaned about how much she loved her husband, but also how much she loved her lover, and how she couldn't let go of either one of them, even if she was hurting them both.  Instead, she had to dive into a butchery apprenticeship and then take a solo trip around the world.  True, by the end of the trip she had grown confidence in herself and was no longer a crying, whiny mess.  Instead, she and her husband came to an agreement to just "see" where life would take them.  No divorce, but also no commitment to stop seeing their lovers (yes, her husband started his own affair after he learned about hers; payback is one thing, but come on!).

I have nothing good to say about this memoir, and now I have nothing good to say about Julie Powell.  I really liked Julie and Julia; I could understand how someone turning 30 in a dead-end job would need to reach out for some crazy goal, and I was impressed that she was able to turn that into a book deal, and I even liked how real and uncensored she seemed.  And I think I'll still like that book for what it was.  But this was something that not only was the opposite of what I expected, but made me angry and left me mystified.  If she had done something, anything, showing that she had grown up and moved on, I could respect that.  Not condone it, but at least respect that she did the right thing.  I will never understand how someone can cheat on the one person they claim to love so much, and I have no respect for someone that can't realize their mistakes and make it right.

1 star out of 5.  I had originally scored this as a 2, but after discussing it with my husband, I realized that I was scoring it based on my own personal need to see if Julie changed her ways, not whether or not the book was worth it.  While I needed to see it to the end, I cannot recommend that you do the same.


  1. Wow, thanks for the excellent, honest review of this book. I actually couldn't get through Julie and Julia without hating her, so I never thought I read another of her books again anyway. But knowing what she did just really makes me dislike her. I definitely know I will NOT read this book.

  2. I really appreciate your honesty in this review. I think I'll take a pass on this one too.

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  4. Thanks so much for this review! I had heard these same thoughts, but then recently grew nostalgic for my love of the first J&J and the wonderful movie, and thought I still might give her second book I try, but you convinced me -- I'll stay away (probably - because I should)

  5. Wow- I haven't read J&J, and although I've heard good things about the movie (more about the Julia part), I wasn't really compelled to read the book. But I had NO idea that this was the direction of her second book. Good lord, this doesn't sound like something anyone would want to read! Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  6. I had no idea she HAD a second book! But I would have been very curious to read it - after seeing the movie.

    THANK YOU for your very honest and wonderfully written review which has removed any desire which I might have had to read this book. I absolutely would NOT!

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