Imagine having your spouse of many years die suddenly of a heart attack (and he’s only in his mid-40’s), just to find out, a few weeks later, that he had been having a series of affairs with other women during your marriage while you, devotedly, didn’t even suspect him of the possibility! This is Julie Metz’s dilemma in Perfection, an account of her true story, so named because it was the subject of a book her husband Henry was in the midst of writing when he died (translated from the Japanese word “umami,” meaning culinary perfection, “the fifth taste,” or “savory”).
In this very earthy and detailed memoir Julie Metx describes her horror at having friends and family discover indisputable evidence (emails on Henry’s private computer) regarding her husband’s infidelities throughout the years during which she was financially supporting him (working as a graphic artist) to give him the freedom to travel and write a culinary book. Two past statements of his had made her uneasy, one where he said that he wanted her to be more like a girlfriend than a wife to him, and another when he demanded that she pay less attention to their very young daughter Liza and more to him, but she never connected this with potential unfaithfulness. She was shocked to find out that one of her friends, Cathy (who made an overly-dramatic display of grief at Henry’s funeral) had been seriously intimate with Henry for the past two years even as their children played together and Julie had been trying very hard to be a responsible mother. By the end of the book she is still trying to forgive Cathy (and failing) and has also contacted all the other women with whom Henry dallied to come to various stages of resolution with them.
Also in her 40’s, Julie still wants a life with a partner and eventually embarks on dates, astonished to learn that nowadays people meet primarily via the internet! She goes through a series of male-female encounters with mixed emotions, at the same time trying to re-establish her own self-esteem and find a person with whom she could spend the rest of her life. She finds living in a small town with Cathy (where her husband originally brought her) unbearable and finally returns to live with her daughter in New York City although she must now trade a large house with a yard for a small apartment. At the same time she strives to uncover the psychological idiosyncrasies that led her husband into constantly cheating on her.
Perfection is a brutally honest book that makes us wonder if we ourselves could ever disclose so much to public scrutiny. It is written with the same intensity of feeling that the author experienced while trying to sleeplessly (and without being able to eat much) live through the two years following her husband’s death. It is an involving and complex story in which it would be impossible not to identify with the victimized party! Kudos for such a brave revelation and subsequent attempt at spiritual transformation!
Perfection: A Memoir Of Betrayal And Renewal by Julie Metz, available in paperback by Hyperion Books on May 18, 2010, 344 pgs.
Reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky
Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the
Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writers Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of Where The Waters Meet,” a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry. She currently reviews movies for and music for .