Book Reviews

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal | Book Review

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal  | Book Review Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz
Original Publication Date: 2009
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Source: I purchased this book
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Perfection? Julie Metz’s life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is a young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry’s death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had been hiding a secret life from his wife.

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, by Julie Metz, is about the sudden death of the author’s husband and what happened when she learned some dark truths about her marriage.

Metz’s husband Henry died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism at 44.

Was it purely medical reasons that killed him? Or was it something else?

Metz had noticed that her husband seemed tired and listless. Since Henry was the type that liked to pack every minute of the day with activity, she knew something was wrong but was still stunned by his sudden death, dying in her arms in their kitchen.

Metz Discovers Her Husband’s Secret Life

Several months later, Metz discovered that Henry had been conducting several extramarital affairs, including a married woman who was supposedly Julie’s “friend”. The woman, Cathy, lived in the same small town and was the mother of one of Julie’s daughter’s best friends. The affair had been tumultuous and had lasted several years. Henry had left behind numerous emails that he had exchanged with this woman and several others.

As Julie worked through her anger and grief, she came up with an unusual idea. She had already confronted Cathy, but what about the others?

Metz actually called or emailed the other women in her husband’s life. She wanted to know exactly what it was that Henry was in compulsive searching for other women.

Was her husband searching for something that Julie could not offer him? Did he look for something else in each new woman? As Metz says:

I thought about that idea of perfection. Every woman he fantasized about was a new opportunity to imagine perfection, just as every meal he prepared was another opportunity to reach a kind of nirvana. But just as shallots burn in overheated butter, so these relationships disappointed.

It became obvious to Metz that Henry had begun to feel overwhelmed by all the different women in his life, and the strain had begun to wear on him.

What Happened Next

Strangely enough, all the other women actually contacted Julie back.

She surprisingly began to feel somewhat of a strange sort of friendship with some of them. However, she simply could not tolerate being in the same small town as Cathy and knew that eventually, she would have to leave, especially since almost everyone in their tiny town knew about the affair. She was also overwhelmingly lonely.

Julie knew that if she was to heal, she would have to move on, both physically (by moving back to Brooklyn), and by moving on to other men — men that would not be secretive and would be more supportive than Henry ever was. She now realized that she needed to find a man that was not necessarily her “type” — because she realized that she wasn’t always the best judge of character, since even during their courtship Henry had left plenty of warning signs that his idea of a relationship was not the same as hers.

Final Analysis

Metz does not spare herself either. She is brutally honest about herself as a sexual being.

Metz does become intimate with a male friend very soon after the death of her husband and even before she finds out about Henry’s infidelities. She also inadvertently hurts several other men in the process of finding a true life partner.

Perfection is a very unusual memoir in that Metz did not simply suffer from the anguish that the end of her marriage had caused but used it to build a better life for herself and her daughter. It is a book that I definitely recommend.

The New York Times wrote about this book:

Similar Books

If you enjoyed this post, please read my review of Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell.

About Julie Metz

Julie Metz is a graphic designer, artist, and freelance writer whose essays have appeared in publications including Glamour and Hemispheres magazines, and the online story site mrbellersneighborhood.com. The recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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