Cleaving: A Story Of Marriage, Meat, And Obsession

by Debbie Stoller

A black-and-blue mess of confessions in which best-selling author Julie Powell (Julie and Julia), apprentices with a butcher while simultaneously hacking away at her own life and loves.

Following the publication of her best-selling memoir, Julie and Julia, foodie Julie Powell found herself caught in the sort of personal crisis that made daily gulps of codeine-laced cough syrup appealing. At age 33, she’d spent more than half her life with her husband, Eric, and two years cheating on him with an emotionally checked-out sadist, D. From the first time D slapped and bit her, Powell was a goner, deadly in love. “The whole thing is so intricate and incestuous and endless,” she confesses. “It’s like trying to explain the plotline of a Buffy episode six seasons in.” In revolt, Eric takes up his own affair, often staying out all night. They stop having sex but together they weep, drink themselves to sleep in front of their television in Queens, wake up, and do it all again. Just reading about this stagnant self-destruction is exhausting, especially considering Powell’s inability to fold her marriage and walk away. “We’re one thing, Eric and I…one bone. You can’t snap a bone in two with a delicious pop. You have to hack, saw, destroy.” Thus, in part to launch herself out of this miserable spin cycle, Powell decides to apprentice as a butcher. As she’s learning how to turn a cow into a steak, D dumps her, but she soldiers on, chopping dead animals so violently she gets carpal tunnel syndrome. Though her story is interspersed with carnivorous recipes, Powell’s raw angst is aggravating enough to make you lose your appetite. Instead of a hardcover book, Powell’s black-and-blue mess of confessions should never have left her hard drive.

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