Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Revival by Julie Metz (Voice, $14.99)
“There is no real perfection, there’ll be no perfect day.” Pete Ham
“A good place to spend life. That’s what I would need to find for myself.” Julie Metz
I honestly thought that I would likely hate this book, based on a couple of synopses that I looked at before deciding to take a leap of faith and purchase it anyway. This is the nonfiction tale of graphic designer-wife-mother Julie Metz, who is 43 with a five-year-old daughter when her writer-husband suddenly drops dead. Metz goes through an extended period of mourning and loss before finding out that her husband, while alive, had several affairs with women both close to her and unknown. The actions appear to be unforgivable and Metz begins to isolate herself with her anger. She becomes highly dysfunctional and comes close to shutting down.
I feared this was going to be the second coming of Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies, an unpleasant memoir with a lot of whining and anger. In Happens Every Day Gillies is unable to come to terms with her husband’s suddenly leaving her for someone else (a female former friend), even though her own mother is quoted as stating that Gillies has an overly controlling personality. Apparently her husband simply escaped.
But Happens Every Day was basically a tale of depression and loss, while Metz – true to the sub-title – learns to revive her life after her shock and period of denial. When her lawyer brother helps to locate her husband’s e-mail communications with his mistresses, she’s able to analyze what happened and when things happened, and even speaks with some of his women flings. Eventually, she puts things in context (“Perhaps we all want our secrets to be found out at last…”) and learns to grant her husband Henry a type of forgiveness.
“I see that, having been through a year of loss and change, I will change still more in this next time of my life.”
The telling flows pretty easily. Metz tends to have a lot of deep thoughts, but she also has an excellent memory and applies it to good use here. She tells the story of a marriage – in non-chronological order – even if it was a bit unusual. As Metz made money, Henry worked for years and years on a book about what constitutes great food; it remained incomplete at his death. Henry had, however, chosen the title for what was to be his literary masterpiece – Perfection.
Metz can also be funny, as in relating the scene where she and her daughter decide to sprinkle some of Henry’s fine ashes (that still contain a few traces of bone and metal) in the backyard. They do so but mix Henry’s ashes with those of a deceased male cat. That kind of put Henry in his place!
Metz’ almost photographic memory is jarring when she writes about her sexual relationships, both before and after her marriage. She seems to feel the need to describe every encounter she’s ever had with a male, and it becomes numbing and weary. (Metz is clearly highly attractive but she seems to have had a life-long need to be desired by men.) There are so many sex scenes that one can only wonder what her young daughter Emily will think of all this one day. Perhaps she will just decide that her mom had a good time in life.
“It was helpful to remember that life could offer flavors other than sour and bitter.”
At the end of this memoir’s 342 pages, Metz has moved herself and her daughter to Brooklyn, she’s found a nice man to live with (one who is kind to her daughter), and is re-energized and hopeful. She and her mate become domestic partners and she comes to see that this new life may well be a contented one – a “perfect fit.”
As noted previously, this book was purchased by the reviewer.