Thursday, August 5, 2010
summer book report
Julie Metz was forty-three years old when her husband of twelve years dropped dead on the kitchen floor. After realizing that the thud she'd heard in another part of the house wasn't a package being delivered, nor was it something that one of the cats knocked off the counter, she raced up the stairs to the bedroom, calling out his name.
"Henry" (his name in the book) was not in the bedroom, so she raced back down the stairs to the kitchen. As she spotted him on the kitchen floor, flat on his back and spread-eagled, she had the overwhelming sensation that she and Henry were in an opening sequence for the show Six Feet Under, which was a favourite show of theirs that year.
"Perfection" is the best-selling true account of what happened after Henry, 44, died that day.
It details how Henry was cremated and the urn kept at home, surrounded by the people and the things he loved. How his little girl (six at the time of his death) dealt with the good and the bad that was her father, and how Julie turned to one of their mutual friends, Tomas, for support. Six months later and a few weeks after becoming sexually involved with him, Julie describes laying in bed with him one evening. An ambulance in the distance roars past; the sound takes Julie back to the afternoon of Henry's death.
"I still miss him so much, I can't bear it. How long is this going to go on?" she asks.
Tomas laid still, staring at the ceiling. "Do you miss everything?"
"No, but when I think that way I feel guilty."
"What do you mean? Tomas please. Please tell me."
"There was a woman in California. I thought you knew. There was also some others, I don't know everything yet...we found a lot on Henry's computer."
The next morning, Julie gets up early and starts calling all of their mutual friends. One in particular, Emily, begins crying right away. "It was Cathy," she said, between sniffles. "They were having an affair, for two years at least. We found their emails on Henry's computer the morning after he died."
Cathy! Cathy lived next door with her husband, a petite athletic woman who'd befriended both Julie and Henry. Cathy's daughter was best friends with Julie's daughter Liza, at that moment Liza was in Cathy's house, waiting to picked up from a sleepover.
Julie's first thought:
I have to go pick up my child. Liza was in the home of the woman who had been involved in a long affair with my now dead husband, who had used her own daughter to gain daily entry to my home, who had insinuated herself into my life, eaten my food, preened by my swimming pool, pretended to be a friend. A women that had left a fucking fruit salad in my refrigerator.
The story continues as Julie discovers one lover after another; Henry's computer and his address book turn up five different lovers over a long period of time. Almost from the beginning of their marriage the red flags are there; Julie had decided to ignore them. After his death, she has no choice but to face it head on and eventually confronts each of his lovers. "What the hell were you thinking," she asks. "You had to have known he was married."
One of his lovers - one of the last, that Henry had tried to hire on as an assistant, actually becomes online friends with Julie and they keep in touch for years to come.
I really enjoyed this book. I read it first as a widow, and truly identified with Julie's feelings (part one is aptly titled "fog") and revelled in her uplifting and hopeful ending. I loved her brutal honesty about sexuality after widowhood, the mistakes she made with Liza when she started dating, and the peace she felt after becoming recoupled. In one of the last anecdotes of the book, Julie and her new BF take Liza to Mexico for a vacation, and there they meet up with a single man who has a daughter the same age.
"Do y'all live together then?" the little girl asked in her southern lilt.
"Yes," I replied cheerfully, "we're a funny little family, we none of us have the same last name."
The father nodded. "Whatever works," he said.
"perfection; a memoir of betrayal and renewal" by julie metz