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January 22, 2010

Did anyone else devour Julie and Julia and then pout mightily when no further blog posts appeared?  I may have missed the movie, but I snatched up a copy of her second memoir Cleaving without even reading the jacket flaps.  The vaguest ideas of meat and butchers and marriage flitted across my brain.

Cleaving is a fantastic book.  Not in the can’t-put-it-down sense, though I did breeze through nearly as quickly as I did her first.  It was the brutal, human honesty that truly pulled me in.  The book is trashy, you cannot deny that.  But the trashiness comes of a blunt, intimate revelation of all those damn, down, dirty thoughts so many people would leave off the page.  Sure, a few metaphors ran heavy handed–the cleaving of a relationship vs. the cleaving of a pork shoulder, but they are easily forgiven.  The parallels are too blatant to ignore, anyway.  Powell’s second memoir is not just about her journey to master butcher.  It’s not just about a massive rock in the road of marriage (rock fall, even).  And it’s not about the major love affair that may have caused said avalanche.  The book is as much about these things as it is about the all-too-familiar need to find one’s place in the world, corny as that may be.  How do you find yourself?  Julie Powell finds herself in butchery, smutty sex, and strange travels.  And she grabs you by the hand, immersing you in the sometimes too graphic details of breaking down a side of beef, screwing her lover, and exploring the world of Maasai goat slaughtering.  The ending–which I won’t ruin–left me near to tears.  Read this.

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