Tuesday, February 23, 2010

KEEPING THE FEAST by Paula Butturini

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

KEEPING THE FEAST is a memoir by Paula Butturini that recounts the painful recovery of Butturini and her husband after a series of tragedies.  Butturini and her husband John were both foreign correspondants in Europe when they met and fell in love in Rome. Soon after their marriage, Paula is severely beaten while covering a news story and a short time later John is shot while covering an uprising in Romania.  As if these events weren't painful enough, Paula's elderly mother commits suicide while John is struggling to heal. During these difficult times, Paula clung to the ritual of preparing and eating food to carry her through.  She weaves stories of the importance of food while growing up into the story of her and John's recovery. Much of the book revolves around the effects of depression on Paula's family and John's own dramatic slide into depression in the aftermath of his shooting. It is a reflective and meditative memoir on how devastating depression can be on the individual and those around him/her as well as the healing powers of the rituals surrounding food.

The book was slow to get going.  I wasn't sure where Butturini was going with her story at first.  The transitions between Butturini's current struggles and the food memories of her past were sometimes jarring. However, the book soon found its voice and offered a compelling look at depression and recovery.  The connection between food and healing was interesting. It made me think about my family's own food rituals and how healing cooking and eating can be.  I loved Butturini's descriptions of Rome.  Having been lucky enough to visit Italy four times in my life, I found her descriptions very evocative and accurate.  Her descriptions of food and dishes made me so hungry!!! One of my only complaints about this book is that I wish she had included some of the recipes that she describes.  It would have been wonderful to try cooking some of the dishes and eating them while I read the book.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  For anyone who has ever been touched by depression, this book will be especially meaningful.  It isn't just a story about physical recovery but the emotional recovery of the soul as well.  The food angle offers a nice and welcome twist.

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